Christ In The Storm
( Originally Published 1895 )
"It is I ; be not afraid."—John vi. 20.
IT is impossible not to let our hearts go out in sympathy with these storm-tossed men who are contending with contrary winds, and worn out with rowing, in the darkness of the night. It is a stormy world, and who of us does not know what it means to row against the wind in the night of trial? Blessed be God that many of us also know what it is to have Jesus come with stately stride across the raging billows and say in our frightened ears, "It is I; be not afraid."
It is a world where storms of trouble and sorrow come upon every life. Even those most completely protected and hedged about by wealth or strength or friends cannot hope to escape.
A Detroit newspaper tells the story of an auction in one of the stores in that city. A pale, sad-faced woman, in a faded gown, stood in the crowd. The loud-voiced auctioneer finally came to a lot of plain and somewhat worn furniture. It had belonged to the pale woman and was being sold to satisfy the mortgage on it. One by one the articles were sold—the old bureau to one, the easy rocker to another, and the bedstead to a third. Finally the auctioneer hauled out a child's high-chair. It was old and rickety, and as the auctioneer held it up every-body laughed — everybody except the pale-faced woman. A tear trickled down her cheek. The auctioneer saw it, and somehow a lump seemed to come up in his throat, and his gruff voice grew soft. He remembered a little high-chair at home, and how it had once filled his life with sunshine. It was empty now. The baby laugh, the two little hands that were once held out to greet " papa" from that high-chair, were gone forever. He saw the pale-faced woman's piteous look, and knew what it meant—knew that in her eye the little rickety high-chair was more precious than if it had been made of gold and studded with diamonds. In imagination he could see the little dimpled cherub which it once held, could see the chubby little fist grasping the tin rattle-box and pounding the chair full of nicks; could see the little feet which had rubbed the paint off the legs; could hear the crowing and laughing in glee; and now—the little high-chair was empty. He knew there was an aching void in the pale-faced woman's heart : there was in his own.
Many of you know what it is. The days may come and go, but you never get over it. There is no one to dress in the morning; no one to put to bed at night. The little playthings mock you and break your heart as you lay them away.
"Don't laugh," said the auctioneer softly, as somebody facetiously offered ten cents; "many of you have little empty high-chairs at home which money would not tempt you to part with." Then he handed the clerk some money out of his own pocket and remarked, " Sold to the lady over there." 'And as the pale-faced woman walked out with the little high-chair clasped in her arms, and tears streaming down her cheeks, the crowd stood back respectfully, and there wasn't anybody that felt like laughing. That poor woman was on the billows, rowing against the wind in the night.
All of you some time will know what a midnight storm means—when the clouds are black as death ; when the wind seems some cruel, revengeful demon; when the iron enters into your soul. O my dear friends, it is into such dark storms that Jesus comes and says, "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid."
No one knows how to come to our poor hearts when they are broken down by sorrow and temptations, when the good cheer and the courage has gone out of them and there seems to be no music of hope left, and set them right like Jesus. He knows how to do it, because he came and took the storm on himself, and endured it for us, and was tempted in all points like as we are. There is a legend that there once stood in an old baronial castle a musical instrument upon which nobody could play; t was complicated in its mechanism, and during years of disuse the dust had gathered and clogged it, while dampness and variations of temperature had robbed the strings of their tone. Various experts had tried to repair it, but without success. But there came one day to the castle a man of another sort. He was the maker of the instrument. He saw at once what was wrong and knew how to repair it. With loving care and skill he brought the jangling strings into tune, and then the hall rang with bursts of exquisite music. So the Lord Jesus knows how to come to our hearts when they are full of strife and discord, and by his loving skill and care to bring about harmony and peace and courage.
The disciples did not know that Jesus was watching them that night, and that he was near by to give them help in their sore need. Oh, how tenderly Jesus seeks us out in a storm !
The Chicago Inter Ocean tells an incident which occurred in a hospital in that city : Upon a pillow lay a fair young face, pale and drawn. The large, dark eyes, luminous in their gaze, looked out wistfully, appealingly, into space. The fevered lips, parched and dry, shaped incoherent words. The restless fingers seized the covers with a convulsive grasp, while shudders shook the wasted frame.
"She has congestion of the brain," said the hospital nurse. "She was found unconscious on the street and was brought here. There was nothing about her to tell who she was or where she lived. She cannot last long. Sad, isn't it?"
Just then two ladies approached with a basket of flowers. One was a member of the flower mission, the other was the giver of that especial basket. She had brought it with her from her country home, and now accompanied her friend to see the flowers distributed. They took out a bunch to lay on the little hospital bed.
"She is too far gone," said the nurse, "to notice them."
However, the lady reached over the sufferer, and gently laid a cluster of sweet-scented honey-suckles on the pillow. Slowly the seemingly dying girl opened her eyes with a questioning gaze. Her hands relaxed and rested on her bosom. For the first time in many hours she breathed quietly. A great peace seemed to steal over her. Her lips moved, and she murmured in low tones : " Seemother—it is blooming full—the honeysuckle—that I—planted—by the-garden wall ! I am—so tired, mother—I cannot pick—the blossoms now !"
Starting at the voice and words, the older lady bent hurriedly over the little bed with an exclamation of wondering astonishment, while the tears fell fast over the young head pillowed there. "O Margaret, my daughter! Have I found you at last? O Margaret, speak to me—to your mother—once more!"
The prayer was answered, and the great mother-love wrought anew its miracle of healing, and in time brought back the wanderer to life and home.
Three years before, this young girl had come to the city. She had taken a position in a large store, where the wages were scanty, and where temptation finally wrought ruin. Deceived and broken-hearted,s he concealed herself from friends, and would have filled an unknown grave but for the loving ministration of these friends of Jesus who sought to comfort his sick poor.
O my friends, the honeysuckle with its sweet fragrance which lured that young life from death is only a faint type of the tenderness of the blessed Christ, who inspired its gift, and who this night is seeking after you in the darkness and the storm, that he may bring you hope and good cheer!
Christ comes to us when we are beset by the cruel waves of sin, and in danger of everlasting shipwreck. He comes, no matter how dark the night of despair, and when we are beyond all power of human help.
One who spent last summer in the forests around Lake Superior relates that he was one day passing along the side of a ridge which descended to a shallow channel, beyond which was a low, narrow thicket, and beyond that a deep lake. Suddenly he heard the noise of a deer in full flight. She was coming down the hill in magnificent bounds, clearing forty to fifty feet at a leap, and behind her the "yip-yip" of wolves. At first he apprehended no danger for her, as a few more leaps would give her deep water, and no wolf could catch her at that speed, any way. But the wolf pack had divided and laid an ambuscade for her in the thicket, and as she reached its edge they sprang at her. The pursuing pack closed in, and, quick as thought, she was encircled. Right up into the air she bounded—and into the air bounded every wolf but one; this one rushed in level and fastened upon her flank when she came down. She dragged him, but the other wolves went into the air again on every side to meet her should she try to overleap them. Then the pitiful cries of the deer, and the savage yells and snarls and snapping jaws of the wolves, were such. as to bring paleness to the face and palpitation to the heart of the man who was compelled to witness the scene while helpless to give defense. For him to have rushed in, unarmed as he was, among the enraged brutes would have sealed his own fate.
The picture of that poor deer beset by the wolves is not an exaggerated illustration of many a soul that is pursued by besetting sins and is ambuscaded by passion and lust. I have seen many and. many a man trying to escape his sins, making a brave fight against them with all the power that was in him, only to be dragged down again and again. And then I have seen the Lord Jesus Christ come to that man, at the sound of his cry for help and mercy, and dispel the whole pack of lusts and sins, and lead forth the man, redeemed and grateful, in sweet and glorious freedom.
One morning in Denver a noted gambler was present in one of the churches at the morning sermon. During the discourse the pastor, though not aware of the presence of such a character in the congregation, uttered this sentence, " Oh, that men.. would realize the mighty power of God to save men even when deep in sin ; how he can make the drunkard sober, the licentious man chaste, the liar truthful, the swindler righteous, and the gambler honest and upright." God sent these words like an arrow straight home to that gambler's soul. No sooner had the sentence been uttered than the heretofore hardened man bent his head on the seat in front of him and was found at the close of the service in this attitude, weeping convulsively. To the pastor, who inquired the occasion of his mental anguish, he replied : " If all that you said this morning is true, then even I may be saved. But can it be true? Can it be true?" The precious promises of God's Word were quoted to him, his spirit became calm and trustful, and there and then he entered into the joy of sins forgiven.
Jesus is still coming to men in the midst of mid-night storms of sin and trial. He ever liveth to make intercession for us, and in the darkest hours he comes to us and knocks at the door of our hearts.
Dr. George F. Pentecost tells the story of a poor ragged little Scotch girl who came to him one night in Aberdeen, after nearly all the other people had gone out from the service, and followed him about as he was leaving the hall. Finally be asked her what she wanted. He fully expected that she was a little beggar; and so she was, but it was the bread of life she was after.
"Lassie," he said, "what do you want?"
The little girl reached up on her tiptoes as he bent down, and whispered into his ear :
" I want to get saved."
He was surprised and startled at the intensity of her whispered words, and drew back and looked her eagerly in the face, and repeated her own words for answer :
" You want to get saved ?"
" Ay, sir, I do," ever so pathetically, and still in a whisper.
" And why do you want to get saved?"
Again on her tiptoes she reached up and whispered in his ear : " Because I am a sinner."
This was so satisfactory a reason, and by this time the child had so interested him, that he drew her to one side, away from the gentlemen who were standing by, that he might talk with her unreservedly.
" How do you know you are a sinner? Who told you so?"
"Because God says so in the book; and I feel it right here," and she laid her little hand on her breast, as the publican did when he said, " God be merciful to me a sinner."
" Well," said Dr. Pentecost, " do you think I can save you?"
Up to this time she had spoken in whispers; but now, drawing away from him, her eyes taking fire, her words rang out short and clear: " No, no, man ; you cannot save me. No man can save a sinner."
By this time his interest was greatly deepened, and he drew her down beside him on one of the benches, and taking her little hands in his, and speaking as kindly as he knew how, he said to her :
"You are quite right; no man can save you, much less I. Tell me why, then, did you come to me? I cannot save you. Who, then, can save you?"
Again she dropped into a whisper, and almost touched his ear with her lips. There was an infinite pathos in her voice as she said : " Jesus can save me."
" Yes, you are quite right. Jesus can save you. But tell me how can he save you? What has he done to save you?"
Again the lips to his ear, and again the eager whisper—if possible more pathetic and tender: " Oh, sir, he died for me."
Out of curiosity to know how the little waif, who had so hotly repudiated the idea of man's ability to save, would answer, Dr. Pentecost re-plied : " Then he is dead, is he? How can he save you if he is dead?"
The little thing sprang up from her seat, and her eyes, only a moment before suffused with tears, flashed upon him. No whisper now, no timid putting of lips to his ear, but her voice rang out as once before : " He is not dead. He is not dead !"
"But you just now said that he died for you. If he died for you he must be dead. How can a dead man save you, however good and loving he may have been?"
She looked at him as in amazement, and lifting her little lean bare arm in striking gesture she replied again: "Man, Jesus is not dead. He died for me, but he is not a dead man. He is God's Son. Man, did you not tell us this very night that God raised him from the dead? He was dead, but he is not dead now. Oh, man, I want to get saved!" and her voice dropped into the old pathetic tones. " Do not fash me, but tell me all about it, and how I can get saved."
He had preached that night from the text, " He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification." And this little waif had been drinking it in. He did tell her all about it, and she went away glad and thankful, and full of the consciousness that her sins were forgiven by the Savior who was alive forevermore.
I preach the same ever-living, everloving Christ to you tonight.