To the Afflicted
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You will find, my friends, that there is no class of people exempt from broken hearts. The rich and the poor suffer alike. There was a time when I used to visit the poor, that I thought all the broken hearts were to be found among them, but within the last few years I have found there are as many broken hearts among the learned as the unlearned, the cultured as the uncultured, the rich as the poor. If you could but go up one of our avenues and down another, and reach the hearts of the people, and get them to turn out their whole story, you would be astonished at the wonderful history of every family.
I remember a few years ago I had been out of the city for some weeks. When I returned I started out to make some calls. The first place I went to I found a mother, her eyes red with weeping. I tried to find out what was troubling her, and she reluctantly opened her heart and told me all. She said, “Last night my only boy came home about midnight drunk. I didn’t know that he was addicted to drunkenness, but this morning I found out that he has been drinking for weeks, and,” she continued, “I would rather have seen him laid in the grave than have him brought home in the condition I saw him in last night.” I tried to comfort her as best I could when she told me her sad story. When I went away from that house I didn’t want to go into any other house where there was family trouble. The very next house I went to, however, where some of the children who attended my Sunday school resided, I found that death had been there and laid his hand on one of them. The mother spoke to me of her afflictions, and brought to me the playthings and the little shoes of the child, and the tears trickled down that mother’s checks as she related to me her sorrow.
I got out as soon as possible, and hoped I should see no more family trouble that day.
The next visit I made was to a home where I found a wife with a bitter story. Her husband had been neglecting her for a long time, “and now,” she said, “he has left me, and I don’t know where he has gone. Winter is coming on, and I don’t know what is going to become of my family,” I tried to comfort her, and prayed with her, and endeavored to get her to lay all her sorrows on Christ. The next home I entered I found a woman crushed and broken hearted. She told me her boy had forsaken her, and she had no idea where he had gone. That afternoon I made five calls, and in every home I found a broken heart. Every one had a sad tale to tell, and if you visited any home in Chicago you would find the truth of the saying, that “there is a skeleton in every house.”
I suppose while I am talking, you are thinking of the great sorrow in your own bosom. I do not know anything about you, but if I came round to every one of you, and you were to tell me the truth, I would hear a tale of sorrow. The very last man I spoke to last night was a young mercantile man, who told me his load of sorrow had been so great, that many times during the last few weeks he had gone down to the lake and had been tempted to plunge in and end his existence. His burden seemed too much for him. Think of the broken hearts in Chicago tonight! They could be numbered by hundreds – yea, by thousands. All over this city are broken hearts. If all the sorrow represented in this great city was written in a book, this building couldn’t hold that book, and you couldn’t read it in a long life time.
This earth is not a stranger to tears, neither is the present the only time when they could be found in abundance. From Adam’s days to ours tears have been shed, and a wail has been going up to Heaven from the broken hearted. And I say it again, it is a mystery to me how all those broken hearts can keep away from Him who has come to heal them. For six thousand years that cry of sorrow has been going up to God. We find the tears of Jacob put on record, when he was told that his own son was no more. His sons and daughters tried to give him comfort, but he refused to be comforted. We are also told of the tears of King David. I can see him, as the messenger brings the news of the death of his son, exclaiming in anguish, “O, Absalom, my son, would that I had died for thee!” And when Christ came into the world the first sound He heard was woe – the wail of those mothers in Bethlehem; and from the manger to the Cross, He was surrounded with sorrow. We are told that He often looked up to Heaven and sighed. I believe it was because there was so much suffering around Him. It was on His right hand and on His left – everywhere on earth; and the thought that He had come to relieve the people of the earth of their burdens, and so few would accept Him, made Him sorrowful. He came for that purpose. Let the hundreds of thousands just cast their burdens on Him. He has come to bear them, as well as our sins. He will bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. There is not a burdened son of Adam in Chicago who cannot but be freed if he will only come to Him.
Let me call your attention to this little word “sent.” “He hath sent me.” Take your Bibles and read about those who have been sent by God, and one thought will come to you – that no man who has ever been sent by God to do His work has ever failed. No matter how great the work, how mighty the undertaking; no matter how many difficulties had to be encountered, when they were sent from God they were sure to succeed. God sent Moses down to Egypt to bring 3,000,000 people out of bondage. The idea would have seemed absurd to most people. Fancy a man with an impediment in his speech, without an army, without Generals, with no record, bringing 3,000,000 people from the power of a great nation like that of the Egyptians. But God sent him, and what was the result? Pharaoh said they should not go, and the great king and all his army were going to prevent them. But did he succeed? God sent Moses and he didn’t fail.
We find that God sent Joshua to the walls of Jericho, and he marched around the walls, and at the proper time those walls came tumbling down and the city fell into his hands. God sent Eliab to stand before Ahab, and we read the result; Samson and Gideon were sent by God and we are told in the Scriptures what they accomplished, and so all through the word we find that when God sent men they have never failed.
Now, do you think for a moment that God’s own Son sent to us is going to fail? If Moses, Elijah, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, and all these mighty men sent by God succeeded in doing their work, do you think the Son of Man is going to fail? Do you think, if He has come to heal broken hearts, He is going to fail? Do you think there is a heart so bruised and broken that can’t be healed by Him? He can heal them all, but the great trouble is that men won’t come. If there is a broken heart here tonight just bring it to the Great Physician, if you break an arm or a leg, you run off and get the best physician. If you have a broken heart, you needn’t go to a doctor or Minister with it; the best physician is the Great Physician. In the days of Christ they didn’t have hospitals or physicians as we have now. When a man was sick he was taken to the door, and the passersby prescribed for him. If a man came along who had had the same disease as the sufferer he just told him what he had done to get cured – I remember I had a disease for a few months, and when I recovered if I met a man with the same disease I had to
tell him what cured me. I could not keep the prescription all to myself. When He came there and found the sick at their cottage door, the sufferers found more medicine in His words than there was in all the prescriptions of that country. He is a mighty physician who has come to heal every wounded heart in this building and in Chicago tonight.
You needn’t run to any other physician. The great difficulty is that people try to get some other physician – they go to this creed and that creed, to this doctor of Divinity and that one, instead of coming directly to the Master. He has told us that His mission is to heal the broken hearts, and if He has said this, let us take Him at His word and just ask Him to heal.
I was thinking today of the difference between those who know Christ when trouble comes upon them, and those who know Him not. I know several members of families in this city who are just stumbling into their graves over trouble. I know two widows in Chicago who are weeping and moaning over the death of their husbands, and their grief is just taking them to their graves. Instead of bringing their burdens to Christ they mourn day and night, and the result will be that in a few weeks or years at most their sorrow will take them to their graves, when they ought to take it all to the Great Physician.
Three years ago a father took his wife and family on board that ill fated French steamer. They were going to Europe, and when out on the ocean another vessel ran into her and she went down. That mother when I was preaching in Chicago used to bring her two children to the meetings every night. It was one of the most beautiful sights I ever looked on, to see how those little children used to sit and listen, and to see the tears trickling down their cheeks when the Savior was preached. It seemed as if nobody else in that meeting drank in the truth as eagerly as those little ones. One night when an invitation had been extended to all to go into the inquiry room, one of these little children said: “Mamma, why can’t I go in, too?” The mother allowed them to come into the room, and some friend spoke to them, and to all appearances they seemed to understand the plan of Salvation as well as their elders. When that memorable night came, that mother went down and came up without her two children. Upon reading the news I said: “It will kill her,” and I quitted my post in Edinburgh – the only time I left my post on the other side – and went down to Liverpool to try and comfort her. But when I got there, I found that the Son of God had been there before me, and instead of me comforting her she comforted me. She told me she could not think of those children as being in the sea; it seemed as if Christ had permitted her to take those children on that vessel only that they might be wafted to Him, and had saved her life only that she might come back and work a little longer for Him. When she got up the other day at a mothers’ meeting in Farwell Hall, and told her story, I thought I would tell the mothers of it the first chance I got. So if any of you have some great affliction, if any of you have lost a loved and loving father, mother, brother, husband, or wife, come to Christ, because God has sent Him to heal the broken hearted.
Some of you, I can imagine, will say, “Ah, I could stand that affliction; I have something harder than that.” I remember a mother coming to me and saying, “It is easy enough for you to speak in that way; if you had the burden that I’ve got, you couldn’t cast it on the Lord.” “Why, is your burden so great that Christ can’t carry it?” I asked. “No, it isn’t too great for Him to carry; but I can’t put it on Him.” “That is your fault,” I replied; and I find a great many people with burdens who, rather than just come to Him with them, strap them tighter on their backs and go away staggering under their load. I asked her the nature of her trouble, and she told me, “I have an only boy who is a wanderer on the face of the earth. I don’t know where he is. If I only knew where he was I would go round the world to find him. You don’t know how I love that boy. This sorrow is killing me.” “Why can’t you take him to Christ? You can reach Him at the Throne, even though He be at the uttermost part of the world. Go tell God all about your trouble, and He will take away this, and not only that, but if you never see him on earth, God can give you faith that you will see your boy in Heaven.”
And then I told her of a mother who lived down in the southern part of Indiana. Some years ago her boy came up to this city. He was a moralist. My friends, a man has to have more than morality to lean upon in this great city. He hadn’t been here long before he was led astray. A neighbor happened to come up here and found him one night in the streets drunk. When that neighbor went home at first he thought he wouldn’t say anything about it to the boy’s father, but afterwards he thought it was his duty to tell. So in a crowd in the street of their little town, he just took that father aside, and told him what he had seen in Chicago. It was a terrible blow. When the children had been put to bed that night he said to his wife: “Wife, I have bad news. I have heard from Chicago today.” The mother dropped her work in an instant, and said: “Tell me what it is.” “Well, our son has been seen on the streets of Chicago drunk.” Neither of them slept that night, but they took their burden to Christ. About daylight the mother said: “I don’t know how, I don’t know when or where, but God has given me faith to believe that our son will be saved and will never come to a drunkard’s grave.” One week after, that boy left Chicago. He couldn’t tell why – an unseen power seemed to lead him to his mother’s home, and the first thing he said on coming over the threshold was, “Mother, I have come home to ask you to pray for me”; and soon after he came back to Chicago a bright and a shining light. If you have got a burden like this, fathers, mothers, bring it to Him and cast it on Him and He, the Great Physician, will heal your broken hearts.
I can imagine again some of you saying, “How am I to do it?” My friends, go to Him as a personal friend. He is not a myth. What we want to do is to treat Christ as we treat an earthly friend. If you have sins, just go and tell Him all about them; if you have some great burden, “Go bury thy sorrow,” bury it in His bosom. If you go to people and tell them of your cares, your sorrows, they will tell you they haven’t time to listen. But He will not only hear your story, however long it be, but will bind your broken heart up. Oh, if there is a broken heart here tonight, bring it to Jesus, and I tell you upon authority, He will heal you. He has said He will bind your wounds up – not only that, He will heal them.
During the war I remember of a young man, not 20, who was court-martialed down in the front and sentenced to be shot. The story was this: The young fellow had enlisted. He was not obliged to, but he went off with another young man. They were what we would call “chums.” One night this companion was ordered out on picket duty and he asked the young man to go for him. The next night he was ordered out himself, and having been awake two nights, and not being used to it, fell asleep at his post, and for the offense he was tried and sentenced to death. It was right after the order issued by the President that no interference should be allowed in cases of this kind. This sort of thing had become too frequent, and it must be stopped.
When the news reached the father and mother in Vermont, it nearly broke their hearts. The thought that their son should be shot was too great for them. They had no hope that he would be saved by anything they could do. But they had a little daughter who had read the life of Abraham Lincoln and knew how he loved his own children, and she said: “If Abraham Lincoln knew how my father and mother loved my brother be wouldn’t let him be shot,” That little girl thought this over and made up her mind to go and see the President. She went to the White House, and the sentinel, when he saw her imploring looks, passed her in, and when she came to the door and told the private secretary that she wanted to see the President he could not refuse her. She came into the chamber and found Abraham Lincoln surrounded by his generals and counselors, and when he saw the little country girl he asked her what she wanted. The little maid told her plain simple story – how her brother, whom her mother and father loved very dearly, had been sentenced to be shot. How they were mourning for him, and if he was to die in that way it would break their hearts. The President’s heart was touched with compassion, and he immediately sent a dispatch canceling the sentence and giving the boy a parole so that he could come home and see that father and mother.
I just tell you this to show you how Abraham Lincoln’s heart was moved by compassion for the sorrow of that father and mother, and if he showed so much, do you think the Son of God will not have compassion upon you sinner, if you only take that crushed, bruised heart to Him? He will read it. Have you got a drunken husband? Go tell him. He can make him a blessing to the Church and to the world. Have you a profligate son? Go take your story to him, and he will comfort you, and bind up and heal your sorrow. What a blessing it is to have such a Savior. He has been sent to heal the broken hearted. May the text, if the sermon doesn’t, reach everyone here tonight, and may every crushed, broken, and bruised heart be brought to that Savior, and they will hear His comforting words. He will comfort you as a mother comforts her child if you will only come in prayer and lay all your burdens before Him.