There is a story told of Mr. William Dawson, which I would like to relate. While preaching in London, one night at the close of his sermon, he said that there was not one in all London whom Christ could not save. In the morning a young lady called upon him and said: “Mr. Dawson, in your sermon last night you said that ‘there was no man in all London whom Christ could not save.’ I find a young man in my district who says he cannot be saved, and who will not listen to me. Won’t you go and see him? I am sure you can do more with him than I can.” Mr. Dawson readily assented, and went with the young lady to the East End–up one of those narrow streets there, and at the top of a rickety staircase found a garret, in which a man was stretched upon straw.
He bent over him and said, “Friend.” “Friend!” said the young man, turning upon him, “you must take me for some other person. I have no friends.” “Ah,” replied the Christian, “you are mistaken. Christ is the sinner’s friend.” The man thought this too good; “Why,” said he, “my whole family have cast me off; every friend I had has left me, and no one cares for me.” Mr. Dawson spoke to him kindly, and quoted promise after promise–told him what Christ had suffered to give him eternal life.
At first his efforts were fruitless, but finally the light of the gospel began to break in on the young man, and the first sign was his heart went out to those he had injured. And, my friends, this is one of the first indications of the acceptance of Christ with the sinner. He said: “I could die in peace now if my father would but forgive me.” “Well,” replied the man of God, “I will go and see your father and ask him for his forgiveness.” “No, no,” was the sad answer of the young man, “you cannot go near him. My father has disinherited me; he has taken my name from the family records; he has forbidden the mention of my name in his house by any of the family or servants in his presence, and you needn’t go.”
However, Mr. Dawson obtained the address, and went away to the West End of London; ascended the steps of a beautiful villa, and rang the bell. A servant in livery came to the door and conducted him to the drawing-room. There was everything in that house for comfort and luxury that money could purchase. He could not help contrasting the scene of poverty in that garret with the scene of luxuriant elegance everywhere around him.
Presently a proud, haughty-looking merchant came in, and as he stepped forward to shake hands with Mr. Dawson that gentleman said: “I believe you have a son named Joseph?” and the merchant threw back his hand and drew himself up. “If you come to speak of him–that reprobate–I want you to go away. I have no son of that name. I disown him. If he has been talking to you he has been only deceiving you.” “Well,” replied Mr. Dawson, “he is your boy now, but he won’t be long.” The father stood for a minute looking at the Christian, and then asked: “Is Joseph sick?” “Yes,” was the reply, “he is at the point of death. I only came to ask your forgiveness for him, that he may die in peace. I don’t ask any favor; when he dies we will bury him.”
The father put his hands to his face and great tears rolled down his cheeks, as he said, “Can you take me to him?” In a very short time he was in that narrow street where his son was dying, and as he mounted the filthy stairs it hardly seemed possible that the boy could be in such a place.
When he entered the garret he could hardly recognize his son, and when he bent over him the boy opened his eyes and said: “O, father, can you–will you forgive me?” and the father answered: “O Joseph, I would have forgiven you long ago if you had wanted me to.” That haughty man laid his boy’s head on his bosom and the son told him what Christ had done for him; how He had forgiven his sins, brought peace to his soul; how that Son of God had found him in that poor garret, and had done all for him. The father wanted the servant to take him home. “No, father,” said the boy, “I have but a short time to live, and I would rather die here.” He lingered a few hours, and passed from that garret in the East End to the everlasting hills.