Sin Sermon Illustrations

Sin Sermon Illustrations

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In his Seven Great Statesmen Andrew D. White tells of the death of Hugo Grotius. It is a recital that touches the deep places of the heart. On his way back from Sweden Grotius was shipwrecked on the Pomeranian coast. Battered by the elements, he managed to get as far as Rostok; and there the famous scholar lay down to die. The beacon light that had illuminated the darkness of his age was soon to be quenched in the smoke of death. The pastor of the Lutheran church, learning of his presence, came in to see him. He made no effort to wrestle with the great statesman, but simply read to him our Saviour's parable of the publican and the pharisee, ending with the words "God be merciful to me a sinner!" (Luke 18:13). At that the dying sage opened his eyes and exclaimed, "That publican, Lord, am I!"

Until we are ready to make a like confession Christianity is a closed book, a forbidden garden. Grotius, the poor publican, wicked David, stainless Paul—all made that prayer, and making it, passed into the City of Forgiveness and Peace. Without that prayer, Christianity may be a history, a philosophy, a code—but not a religion that saves.

One of the most eloquent and powerful of American Colonial preachers was James Waddel, the blind preacher of Virginia, whose eloquence is celebrated in one of the most beautiful pieces of American prose, William Wirt's British Spy. When this blind Boanerges lay dying, one of his friends, when he was about to leave him after a visit, expressed the wish that when he came to die he would have back of him, for his own comfort in such an hour, the record of a godly life like that of Waddel. At that, Waddel lifted his hand in protest and declared that if his only comfort were the thoughts of the life which he had lived, he would be wretched indeed. Instead of that his comfort was in the fact that the Lamb of God taketh away the sins of the world.

The battleship Victory was rolling in the sea where the thunders of the guns of the British fleet were yet reverberating in the great triumph of Trafalgar Bay. Down in the dark cockpit of the Victory Lord Nelson, shot through the back and dying, said to his captain, who stood over him: "Kiss me, Hardy. I have not been a great sinner."

Of what was Nelson thinking in that hour? Perhaps of the one great transgression that had shadowed his life and done such deep and cruel wrong to Lady Nelson. But whatever it was, his estimate was wrong.

From the worldly standpoint, Paul had lived, as he claimed he had, a highly moral life. Facing the foes who falsely accused him with gross sin, Paul said what you and I would hesitate to say, "I know nothing against myself" (I Cor. 4:4). But when he saw Christ crucified, when he knelt before the Cross, this was all he had to say, "Christ Jesus came . . . to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (I Tim. 1:15).

The sooner we are ready to make a like confession, the sooner we shall enter into the power and joy of the Christian life.

When old Dr. Maclure was dying he asked his friend Drumsheugh to read a bit from the Bible. The laird opened at the fourteenth chapter of John and commenced at the familiar words, "In my Father's house are many mansions.' But the dying doctor stopped him, saying, "It's a bonnie word, but it's no for the like o' me."

Then the laird let the Bible open of itself at the place where the doctor had been reading every night for the past week, the passage where Jesus tells us what God thinks of a penitent sinner: "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13).
Yes, that is the passage for doctors and for ministers, for lawyers and for bankers, for soldiers and sailors, for all the sons of men, who, when they come to finish their lives, have nothing to say for themselves. "God be merciful to me a sinner."

There is an idea which both Longfellow and Tennyson have made very familiar by their poetry, but the original author of it was Augustine; for it was he who said that by trampling our sins and vices under our feet we frame a ladder by which we rise on our dead selves to higher things.

There is no grander spectacle in the universe than when a soul lays hold upon that golden ladder and commences the ascent from the depths to the heights. The battlements of heaven are crowded with spectators when that happens.

In The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse the Russian sage and prophet, looking upon the ravages of war, despairs of the death of the beast. The beast, he says, never dies. He is the eternal companion of man. He hides spouting blood for fifty or a hundred years, but eventually he reappears. But Christianity has a different horoscope for the world. The beast has received his fatal wound. Both death and hell will be cast into the lake of fire.

There was an army officer in India who had a tiger cub for a pet. The cub was an affectionate and playful animal, and was much with its master. It had grown to size and strength, and one day the officer was sitting in his library reading. As he read he fell asleep. The young tiger, which was lying by his chair, began to lick the hand of his master, which hung down near him. There was a slight abrasion on the hand; and as the tiger licked the wound he tasted blood, and with the blood he became more and more ardent, until the officer, awakening, found himself looking into the blazing yellow eyes, not of a playful tiger cub, but of a ferocious beast that had tasted his blood and now sought his life. Just in time, he seized his pistol and shot the tiger.

Twenty years! "Surely," Jacob thought to himself, "that is long enough to dull Esau's memory of what I did to him. He has now become a great man, and will have forgotten the mean trick that I did to him." And yet Jacob knew that he himself had not forgotten. No. The one sinned against might forget, but not the one who sinned. Sin and remorse are not subject to time. They are ageless. The sin that a man commits today, twenty years from today—yes, fifty or seventy years from today, when conscience and memory bring it back to him—will be as fresh as it was twenty years after he committed the sin. "Be sure your sin will find you out!" (Num. 32:23.)

Goethe brings Faust to a conclusion with a beautiful passage in which Margaret, against whom Faust had sinned, meeting him in heaven, asks and receives permission to become the spiritual guide and instructor of Faust in eternal life.

Incline, O maiden
With mercy laden, in light unfading
Thy gracious countenance upon my bliss.
My loved, my lover.
His trials over,
In yonder world returns to me in this!

The spirit choir around him seeing,
New to himself, he scarce divines
His heritage of new-born Being.
Vouchsafe to me that I instruct him.
Still dazzles him the Day's new glare.
Then answers the Mater Gloriosa:

Rise, thou, to higher spheres! Conduct him,
Who feeling thee, shall follow there.

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