I have good news to tell you -- Christ is come after you. I was at the Fulton-street prayer-meeting, a good many years ago, one Saturday night, and when the meeting was over, a man came to me and said, "I would like to have you go down to the city prison to-morrow, and preach to the prisoners. I said I would be very glad to go. There was no chapel in connection with that prison, and I was to preach to them in their cells. I had to stand at a little iron railing and talk down a great, long narrow passageway, to some three or four hundred of them, I suppose, all out of sight. It was pretty difficult work; I never preached to the bare walls before. When it was over I thought I would like to see to whom I had been preaching, and how they had received the gospel. I went to the first door, where the inmates could have heard me best, and looked in at a little window, and there were some men playing cards. I suppose they had been playing all the while. "How is it with you here?" I said. "Well, stranger, we don't want you to get a bad idea of us. False witnesses swore a lie, and that is how we are here." "Oh," I said, "Christ cannot save anybody here; there is nobody lost." I went to the next cell. "Well, friend, how is it with you?" "Oh," said the prisoner, "the man that did the deed looked very much like me, so they caught me and I am here." He was innocent, too! I passed along to the next cell. "How is it with you?'" "Well, we got into bad company, and the man that did it got clear, and we got taken up, but we never did anything." I went along to the next cell "How is it with you?" "Our trial comes on next week, but they have nothing against us, and we'll get free." I went round to nearly every cell but the answer was always the same -- they had never done anything. Why, I never saw so many innocent men together in my life. There was nobody to blame but the magistrates, according to their way of it. These men were wrapping their filthy rags of self-righteousness about them. And that has been the story for six thousand years. I got discouraged as I went through the prison, on, and on, and on, cell after cell, and every man had an excuse. If he hadn't one, the devil helped him to make one. I had got almost through the prison, when I came to a cell and found a man with his elbows on his knees, and his head in his hands. Two little streams of tears were running down his cheeks; they did not come by drops that time.
"What's the trouble?" I said. He looked up, the picture of remorse and despair. "Oh, my sins are more than I can bear." "Thank God for that," I replied. "What," said he, "you are the man that has been preaching to us, ain't you?" "Yes." "I think you said you were a friend?" "I am." "And yet you are glad that my sins are more than I can bear!" "I will explain," I said "If your sins are more than you can bear, won't you cast them on One who will bear them for you?" "Who's that?" "The Lord Jesus." "He won't bear my sins." "Why not?" "I have sinned against Him all my life." "I don't care if you have; the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses from all sin." Then I told him how Christ had come to seek and save that which was lost; to open the prison doors and set the captives free. It was like a cup of refreshment to find a man who believed he was lost, so I stood there, and held up a crucified Saviour to him. "Christ was delivered for our offenses, died for our sins, rose again for our justification." For a long time the man could not believe that such a miserable wretch could be saved. He went on to enumerate his sins, and I told him that the blood of Christ could cover them all. After I had talked with him I said, "Now let us pray." He got down on his knees inside the cell, and I got down outside, and I said, "You pray." "Why," he said, "it would be blasphemy for me to call on God." "You call on God," I said. He knelt down, and, like the poor publican, he lifted up his voice and said, "God be merciful to me, a vile wretch!" I put my hand through the window, and as I shook hands with him a tear fell on my hand that burned down into my soul. It was a tear of repentance. He believed he was lost. Then I tried to get him to believe that Christ had come to save him. I left him still in darkness. "I will be at the hotel," I said, "between nine and ten o'clock, and I will pray for you." Next morning, I felt so much interested, that I thought I must see him before I went back to Chicago. No sooner had my eye lighted on his face, than I saw that remorse and despair had fled away, and his countenance was beaming with celestial light; the tears of joy had come into his eyes, and the tears of despair were gone. The sun of Righteousness had broken out across his path; his soul was leaping within him for joy; he had received Christ as Zaccheus did -- joyfully. "Tell me about it," I said. "Well, I do not know what time it was; I think it was about midnight. I had been in distress a long time, when all at once my great burden fell off, and now, I believe I am the happiest man in New York." I think he was the happiest man I saw from the time I left Chicago till I got back again. His face was lighted up with the light that comes from the celestial hills. I bade him good-by, and I expect to meet him in another world.
Can you tell me why the Son of God came down to that prison that night, and, passing cell after cell, went to that one, and set the captive free? It was because the man believed he was lost.