« PreviousContinue »
came letters from London asking for help ten years after he was dead-letters addressed to “Jacob Hayes, High Constable of New York.” Your police need your appreciation, your sympathy, your gratitude, and, above all, your prayers. And there is no church more indebted to that class of men than this. When, last year, we were arraigning some public iniquities, and the wrath of all the powers of darkness seemed to be stirred up, the police came in—not at our invitation, but voluntarily—and sixty of them sat in every service in this church, for six weeks, that there might be neither interruption nor bloodshed. We thank them. We sympathize with them. We pray for them.
Yea, I want you to go further, and pray every day for your prison inspectors and your juil-keepers,—work awful and beneficent. Rough men, cruel men, impatient men, are not fit for those places. They have under their care men who were once as good as you, but they got tripped up. Bad company, or strong drink, or a strange conjunction of circumstances, flung them headlong. Go down that prison corridor and ask them how they got in, and about their families, and what their early prospects in life were, and you will find that they are very much like yourself, except in this: that God kept you while He did not restrain them. Just one false step made the difference between them and you. They want more than prison bars, more than jail fare, more than handcuffs and hopplers, more than a vermin-covered couch to reform them. Pray God, day by day, that the men who have these unfortunates in charge may be merciful, Christianly strategic, and the means of reformation and rescue. Some years ago a city pastor in New York was called to the city prison to attend a funeral.
A young woman had committed a crime, and was incarcerated, and her mother came to visit herand died on the visit. The mother, having no home, was buried from her daughter's prison-cell. After the service was over, the imprisoned daughter came up to the minister of Christ, and said: "Wouldn't you like to see my poor mother?" And while they stood at the coffin, the minister of Christ said to that imprisoned soul: “Don't you feel to-day, in the presence of your mother's dead body, as if you ought to make a vow before God that you will do differently and live a better life ?” She stood for a few moments, and then the tears rolled down her cheeks, and she pulled from her right hand the worn-out glove that she had put on in honor of the obsequies, and, having bared her right hand, she put it upon the chill brow of her dead mother, and said: “By the help of God I swear I will do differently. God help me." And she kept her vow. And years after, when she was told of the incident, she said: “When that minister of the Gospel said: "God bless you and help you to keep the vow that you have made,' I cried out, and I said : You bless me! Do you bless me? Why, that's the first kind word I've heard in ten years;' and it thrilled through my soul, and it was the means of my reformation, and ever since, by the grace of God, I've tried to live a Christian life.” O yes, there are many amid the criminal classes that may be reformed. Pray for the men who have these unfortunates in charge; and who knows but that, when you are leaving this world, you may hear the voice of Christ dropping to your dying pillow, saying: "I was sick and in prison, and you visited me.” Yea, I take the suggestion of the Apostle Paul, and ask you to pray for all who are in authority, that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in godliness and honesty.
My word this morning now is to all in this assembly and to those whom these words shall come who hold any public position of trust in our midst. You are God's representatives. God the King, and Ruler, and Judge, sets you in His place. O, be faithful in the discharge of all your duties, so that when Brooklyn is in ashes, and the world itself is a red scroll of flame, you may be in the mercy and grace of Christ rewarded for your faithfulness. It was that feeling which gave such eminent qualifications for office to Neal Dow, Mayor of Portland, and to Judge McLean, of Ohio, and to Benjamin F. Butler, Attorney-General of New York, and to George Briggs, Governor of Massachusetts, and to Theodore Frelinghuysen, Senator of the United States, and to William Wilberforce, member of the British Parliament. You may make the rewards of eternity the emoluments of your office. What care you for adverse political criticism if you have God on your side! The one, or the two, or the three years of your public trust will pass away, and all the years of your earthly service, and then the tribunal will be lifted, before which you and I must appear. May God make you so faithful now that the last scene shall be to you exhilaration and rapture. I wish this morning to exhort all good people, whether they are the governors or the governed, to make one grand effort for the salvation, the purification, the redemption of Brooklyn. Do you not know that there are multitudes going down to ruin, temporal and eternal, dropping quicker than words drop from my lips? Grogshops swallow them up. Gambling hells devour them. Houses of shame are damning them. O, let us toil, and
. pray, and preach, and vote until all these wrongs are righted. What we do we must do quickly. Soon you will not sit there, and I will not stand here. With our
rulers, and on the same platform, we must at last come before the throne of God to answer for what we have done for the bettering of the condition of the five hundred thousand people in Brooklyn. Alas! if on that day it be found that your hand has been idle and my pulpit has been silent. O, ye who are pure, and honest, and Christian, go to work and help me to make this city pure, and honest, and Christian,
Lest it may have been thought that I am this morning preaching only to what are called the better classes, my final word is to some dissolute soul that has strayed here to-day. Though you may be covered with all crimes, though you may be smitten with all leprosies, though you may have gone through the whole catalogue of iniquity, and may not have been in church for twenty years before to-day-before you leave this house you may have your nature entirely reconstructed, and upon your brow, hot with infamous practices and besweated with exhausting indulgences, God will place the flashing coronet of a Saviour's forgiveness. “0, no!" you say, "if you knew who I am and where I came from this morning, you wouldn't say that to me. I don't believe the Gospel you are preaching speaks of my case.
Yes it does, my brother. And then when you tell me that, I think of what St. Teresa said when reduced to utter destitution, having only two pieces of money left, she jingled the two pieces of money in her hand and said: "St. Teresa and two pieces of inoney are nothing; but St, Teresa and two pieces of money and God are all things.". And I tell you to-day that while a sin and a sinner are nothing, a sin and a sinner and an all-forgiving and all-compassionate God are everything.
Who is that that I see coming? I know his step. I know his rage Who is it? A prodigal Come, people of God, let us go out and meet him. Get the best robe you can find in all this house. Let the angels of God fill their chalices and drink to his eternal rescue. Come, people of God, let us go out to meet him. The prodigal is coming home. The dead is alive again, and the lost is found. Hallelujah!