I had left Birmingham for Derby, in company with a friend, and after we had travelled some distance, he gave away a few tracts. I observed an old man reading the one given to him with very marked attention. Though a working man, his wrinkled forehead and careworn face bore marks of mental anguish, of no ordinary character. I felt a strong desire to speak to the old man, but could not make a beginning. I mentally offered a short prayer; it was this, — "Lord, if it be Thy will that I should speak to this man, cause him to speak to me first." I sat still a few minutes, when he put up his finger for me. I went and sat by him. He said, "I want to speak to you." (If the reader does not know what prayer is, he will perhaps wonder at this.) I looked at his anxious face, as he said, "When I was a young man, I read Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and many such; and their writing suited me well then, for I liked to have my full fling in sin; and I had it, both here and far away, across the seas. I travelled both on the continent, and also in South America; and what scenes have I been in! But now" (pointing to his grey hair), "oh, this remorse! it smashes me to pieces." I shall never forget the look with which these words were spoken. Oh, my soul! thought I, how much like hell is the anguish of remorse. Almost before I could speak, he went on to say, "I think the deceitful ways of professors make more infidels than all the writings that infidels themselves have written." "Well," I said, "if it were not for an old book I have in my pocket, which tells all about that, I should be staggered myself." "Indeed," said he; "what book is that?" "Oh," said I, "it is the Bible; and there is not an evil in the professing church which was not plainly foretold. But you have looked long enough at man; there is nothing in him to heal your broken, smashed heart; I want you to look at another object and that object is God. You will find no deceit in Him; indeed all is sincere love. I don't ask you to do this or that to get to God, but I want, to tell you, smashed under sin and guilt as you are, what God has done to get to you. I want to tell you what He is, and what He has done, as displayed through the cross of Christ. The love that is seen there is all sincere, and it is all the work of God. Man put Christ to death, but God so loved. Yes, it is the cross of Christ alone that heals the broken heart. It has been truly said, that to heal the broken heart, Christ's own heart must be broken first. It was broken. He died for us, 'the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.'" I pointed out the difference between our having to seek and to serve God, in order to be saved, and God's having sent His Son to seek and to save that which was lost. I told him the following anecdote to illustrate this most important difference: — A man I knew, in Derbyshire, was walking in a dangerous mine, with a candle in his hand, when a drop of water from the roof fell upon his candle, and put out the light. The mine was a very dangerous place, and he, alone and without light, could not find his way out. He remained a long time in this dreary condition, until he became greatly alarmed; indeed, such was the effect on his mind, that he was in danger of losing his reason. Whilst in this state, he thought he saw the glimmering of a light. It was a light; he fixed his eyes on that light; it came nearer and nearer, until at last he saw the face of his own brother, who had come to seek him. His friends having become alarmed on account of his long absence, his brother had descended into this pit of darkness to seek and to save him that was lost. "Mind you," said I, "he did not stand at the pit's mouth calling out, that if his lost brother would but come out of that pit of darkness, he would then save him, as many falsely represent Christ as doing. No; he came to the very place where that brother was, and who needed his help." I said to the old man, "You are in the dark pit of sin and death; your candle of youth has been put out; you are beginning to feel something of the fearful solitude; alone without God. Do you catch a glimmering of the light in the face of Jesus Christ? Fix your eye there. The light will come nearer and nearer, till it shews you, in that blessed One, the face of a Saviour, who does not tell you to come out of the pit first to save yourself, and that then, when you do not need saying, He will save you. Oh, no, He knew we were too far lost for that. He descended into the very pit of sin and death; He bore sin's curse and condemnation, that there might be none for us; and He alone can, and does, deliver from sin's power. He comes to you in the pit; give Him your hand, He will lead you to eternal day."
There was power in the name of Jesus; a change passed over the old man's countenance; the raging storm was calming down; the goodness of God was leading him to repentance. He had never thus seen God manifest in the flesh, as the God of love. He had long been trying to get out of the pit, like many others, but had never before seen Jesus coming into it to save him. Our conversation was suddenly stopped — we parted at Derby. I trust we shall meet again at the great and glorious terminus — the coming of the Lord.
Well, reader, what say you to these things? Have you been "smashed to pieces?" Have you felt the bitter sting of remorse? Judas felt that. But I will ask another question, Have you ever felt the power of the love of Christ? Judas felt the one — Peter felt both. You may be saying, "I am too bad to be saved; I have tried so often; and oh, my sins! If I could but undo what I have done!" Were you not saying this to yourself the other day? You can never return to innocence. You can never have peace, but through the blood of Christ. If you could be ever so good to the end of life, still those past sins come as fresh as ever before you; and, as the old man said, "The older we get, the heavier they become." Ah, this will be true in hell for ever. Oh, let me tell you, there is no relief but by looking at the blood of Christ; this only gives me relief; my sins were laid on Him; they have broken His heart. But you say you have tried so often. How have you tried? Have you tried to prove yourself better than God's word says you are? Or, have you tried to get out of the pit, and cannot? God well knows you cannot. If you could have been saved in your way, Christ need not have died. You have tried and failed. Christ did not fail. He finished the work of redemption. This is most certain, for God raised Him from the dead. Forgiveness of sins is preached in His name, and by Him all that believe are justified from all things. (Acts 13:38, 39; Rom. 5:1.) My friend, this is a great salvation, it is worthy of all acceptation, yes, of your acceptation, "that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." Now, you trust Him, and see if it cannot be done; nay, if you trust Him, it is done. "He that believeth hath everlasting life." "We have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Reader, dost thou believe on the Son of God? Having no confidence in thyself, praise Him for all that is past, trust Him for all that is to come. He says, "Sin shall not have dominion over you." There may be falterings and faintings, but faith, that has done with self, and takes hold only on Christ, shall overcome to the very end.