Influence Sermon Illustrations

Influence Sermon Illustrations

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Left motherless at a tender age, Beecher had for a companion an old Negro, Charles Simms, who used to saw the wood for his father and do odd chores about the place. Beecher makes frequent allusion to this Negro and the influence he exerted upon his life. They occupied the same room, and Beecher pays a beautiful tribute to the Negro's character and piety: "Every night he would set the candle at the head of his bed, and pray and sing and laugh, and I bear record that his praying made a profound impression upon my mind. I never thought whether it was right or wrong—I only thought, How that man does enjoy it! What enjoyment there must be in such prayer as his. I gained more from that man of the idea of the desirableness of prayer than I ever did from my father or mother. My father was never an ascetic. He had no sympathy with anything of a mawkish tendency. Yet this poor man, more than he, led me to see that there should be real overflowing gladness and thanksgiving in prayer."

When Charles Dickens was passing one day through the streets of York an unknown woman accosted him saying, "Mr. Dickens, will you let me touch the hand that has filled my house with many friends?"

One of the most successful preachers of Scotland, Ambrose Shepherd, writes thus of his youth: "I have already alluded to my experience in a hard school. Indulge me if I return to it for a moment. My earlier years were spent in a Lancashire cloth mill. In it I wrought from morning to night side by side with youths of my own age and men who were older. For the most part, young and old, they were practiced in almost every conceivable coarse and brutal way of casting their existence as rubbish to the void. But I think I can truthfully say that, while I tried to be loyal to the conditions of contract, and as a comrade in the ranks was not unpopular, yet they knew that neither within those grim walls nor without them was I of their world."

Have your own world! Have the courage to stay in diat world and breathe its pure air.

Dr. William Paxton, in the closing stage of his career as a professor, told of an incident which many of his students never forgot:

On Sabbath evenings in his Pittsburgh church he had noted a young man of fine appearance sitting in one of the galleries and giving careful and reverent attention to the preacher. Shortly before a Communion season this man called at Dr. Paxton's home and said he wished to make a confession of his faith and unite with the Church. After the conversation was over and the arrangement had been made, just as the man was leaving, Dr. Paxton asked, not out of curiosity, but as a matter of courtesy, what his business was. He was surprised when the man told him that he was a liquor dealer, and gave the name of one of the best-known liquor firms in Pittsburgh. Dr. Paxton asked him to sit down again, and expressed his sorrow that such was the case, explaining to him that with the convictions he held he could not conscientiously receive him into the membership of the Church. But he told him that there was then no church law on the subject, that it was his own personal judgment in the matter, and that there were other ministers, whose opinions he did not judge, who took a different view of the matter. The young man replied heatedly that he considered the minister's attitude a personal affront. His father and his grandfather before him had been in the liquor business, and he had always regarded it as an honorable calling. With an air that told plainly that he was through with churches and ministers, he took his hat and walked out.

Dr. Paxton never expected to see the man again. He was therefore much surprised when one morning several months afterward the same man came to his study and said, "Dr. Paxton, when you refused to receive me as a member of your church I felt angry and outraged, and resolved in my heart to have nothing more to do with churches. But when I was leaving you told me that it would be a good thing if I would see what my business was doing in the city. The other day I took your advice. I followed one of our wagons about over the city. I watched it as it went into the private home, the mansion of the rich, the hovel and the tenement of the poor, the rich man's club, the dance hall, and places of amusement and of crime. Now I know what you meant. You were right and I was wrong. I honor and respect you, sir, for refusing to receive me into the membership of your church. But now that I have seen the evils of this business, I have given it up and, confessing my sins, I desire to be received into the Church."

A Pittsburgh lawyer, desperately ill, was sent as a last resort to a sanatorium. He was so weak that he had to be carried to the train on a stretcher. On the night of his arrival the physician who examined him, alarmed at his condition, told him that he must have a stimulant at once, and prescribed whisky. The lawyer, who had been a total abstainer all his life, said he would not take it. The physician then had a private interview with the man's wife, saying that unless her husband took the stimulant he could not answer for his being alive on the morrow. The wife answered, "You might as well try something else; you will carry him out of the hospital dead before he will take a drink of whisky." Another kind of stimulant was prescribed, and in the course of a week or ten days the sick lawyer was on his feet and on the road to recovery.

The physician who was attending him was the brilliant son of a brilliant father, also a physician. The son had been highly educated and had started in his profession with great promise; but, disappointed in a love affair, he had taken to drink, and had gone to the very depths. After some years of this sort of life he had a meeting with his former fiancee, who held out hopes of marriage if he could prove to her that he was free from the dominion of strong drink. With this as an animating and inspiring motive, the man pulled himself together and reestablished himself as a reputable and highly regarded physician.

In one of his visits to his now convalescent patient, he said to him, "Sir, I owe you a great debt of gratitude. At intervals the old appetite for drink comes back upon me with terrible power and threat. It just happened that I was in one of those dangerous periods when I was first called in to see you. I was on the point of surrendering again to my old enemy; but after I heard your steadfast refusal to take the whisky I had prescribed, even though I told you your life was in danger if you did not take it, I said to myself, 'If that man at the very point of death can hold to such a resolution, certainly I can resist the craving for drink that is now upon me.' The crisis soon passed, and I was myself again. I thank you, sir. You did not know it, but when you refused to take that whisky you were holding me back from another fall and disaster. Your refusal saved me."

A striking and dramatic illustration of the power of unconscious influence!

President Wilson's Tribute

President Woodrow Wilson told this story:

"I was in a very plebeian place. I was in a barber shop, sitting in a chair, when I became aware that a personality had entered the room. A man had come quietly in upon the same errand as myself, and sat in the chair next to me. Every word he uttered, though it was not in the least didactic, showed a personal interest in the man who was serving him; and before I got through with what was being done for me, I was aware that I had attended an evangelistic service, because Mr. Moody was in the next chair. I purposely lingered in the room after he had left and noted the singular effect his visit had upon the barbers in that shop. They talked in undertones. They did not know his name, but they knew that something had elevated their thoughts. And I felt that I left that place as I should have left a place of worship."

Asked to verify the truth of that in­cident, President Wilson did so, and added:

"My admiration and esteem for Mr. Moody were very deep indeed."Sunday School Times.

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