As every man has a public, private and secret side to his life, allow me to inquire about your private actions. Have they been of such a character that, were you dying this night, you would pray to God to remember how you had walked, as Hezekiah prayed? Come, friends, we might just as well face these facts now, for we will have to face them at the bar of God. We must all appear at the Judgment-seat of Christ to receive the things done in the body, whether they be good or bad. But few know much of the private side of our lives, so we are asking the question, What about your private actions?
There is that man who comes to the meeting; we meet him on the street and he acts like a gentleman. We wonder if he acts that way in private at home. Then there is that woman who comes to the meeting, and appears so nice and pleasant; we wonder if she is as pleasant at home. Let us take a chair and set it out here on the front of the platform and have that husband come up and take a seat. Now we will place another so the two will face each other, and ask that wife to come and take that one, and we will ask a few questions:
“Now, wife, what about this husband of yours? Does he make a profession of religion? He does? Then tell us, how does he act around home? Is he as kind and courteous to you around home as he is to other ladies, or as he is to you when you are together in public? Would he think of going into his neighbor’s house and sticking his feet up on the top of the stove or back of a chair, sit and puff and smoke and smell until he had the atmosphere so filled with tobacco smoke that every child in the house had its lungs filled with the nasty, poisonous odors? Does he do that in his own home? You say, ‘He says he has too much respect for his neighbor’s wife and children to do that.’ Well, if that is so, and if he does it at home, it only shows that he has more respect for his neighbor’s wife and children than he has for his own wife and children. He’s a fine specimen for a husband and a father, isn’t he?
“What else does he do in private that he would not want to be known? Come, don’t you tell a falsehood, or it will meet you at the Judgment. Tell us the truth. You say you do not want to testify to his actions? Very well, be seated, and we will have him testify.
“Now, sir, tell us how this woman acts at home. She comes to the meeting and one would think her to be the essence of goodness itself. Does she act like that at home? Does she prove to be the same pleasant, earnest woman at home as she appears in public? Oh, you don’t want to testify either? All right, you may take your seat by her side. A precious pair you are!”
Now, we will ask the daughter there to come up here and take this third chair, and we will ask her some questions:
“Now, daughter, you spend your time in the home; tell us, how do this father and mother of yours act at home? Are they earnest Christians, and are they as kind to each other in private as they are in public? Come on, out with the truth. We wish to know the exact facts. As professors. of religion, they profess to be living for Jesus, walking with God, and if they are, they both would be quite willing for you to tell just how they act in private.”
Friends, if you would not be glad and willing for the members of your home to stand up publicly and testify to your private actions at home, your profession of religion is a sham and hypocritical. God help you! I ask again, if you were dying, would you pray as Hezekiah prayed? He said: “Lord, remember how I walked before Thee in truth and have done that which was good in Thy sight.” How often do you pray with your family? How long has it been since you talked with your boy or girl about their souls? How long has it been since you have prayed with them and for them? Have your children ever heard you pray? If their salvation depended on whether they ever heard you pray, would they be saved tonight?
We were conducting a series of meetings in a small country village some years ago, and were attracted to a man we had noticed one night while preaching. In the after service that followed the sermon, we went to him, and the following conversation took place:
“Sir, are you ready to meet God?” we asked.
“No use to talk to me; talk to someone else.”
“But, sir, I came down to talk to you. Your open face attracted my attention from the platform and I came down on special purpose to talk with you.”
“No use, for you are wasting you time.”
“Is that so? My! but you must be a reprobate.”
He looked up quickly and eyed us over from head to foot. We waited for his reply, which finally came.
“Why do you insult me?”
“I am not insulting you, but simply taking you at your word. You said I was wasting my time, and if so, you must certainly have a very poor opinion of yourself, or else you have sunken pretty low.”
“Well, I can’t hold out.”
“How do you know?”
“I tried it once.”
“How long ago?”
“About twenty years.”
“How old were you then?”
“Have you ever thought much about it since?”
“No; don’t want to.”
“Will you not stop and consider the question?”
“Then you are a big coward.” How he started and looked, but we went on: “You are too cowardly. Here you are, a man of a family, and you don’t pray, won’t pray, and never intend to pray, and are too mean and cowardly to even think about praying. I come to you as a friend and you don’t even consider that you are worth a few moments of my time.”
“But, I tell you, it is no use,” he replied, very sullenly, “and I’m not a coward; not a man in this community dare call me a coward.”
“Well, let us see; if I prove to you that you are a coward, will you own up?”
“Let’s have your proposition.”
“All right. I will challenge you to go home and, alone in a room in the dark, honestly and sincerely think on the following three questions: Have I a soul to be saved? If so, what must I do to save it? And, What will be the consequences if I do not have it saved? Now, I will dare you to do this.”
He accepted the challenge and went home. He came back the following night and, with his wife, came to the altar and both were powerfully converted. The following evening he told me his experience.
“I went home,” he said, “with a sneer on my lips, but thought enough of my word to keep my promise. I had been alone in that dark room thinking about my soul and my wicked life but a short time until I began to feel afraid, and went out into another room and saw that I had only been in the dark a few minutes. I got mad and went back and tried it again. I did not sleep that night, but tossed on my bed all night and at my blacksmith shop yesterday everything went wrong. Every time I struck my anvil it said, “You’re a coward.’ It was the longest and most miserable day of my life. Last night wife and I both found God. On our way home I borrowed a little Testament from a neighbor, for we have no Bible in our home, and before we went to bed my children saw their father and mother on their knees and heard them pray, and today my work has gone on so nicely at the shop. And today my old anvil said, ‘Praise the Lord!’ and ‘Hallelujah!’ every time I struck it.”
The memory of his big face with the tears streaming down his cheeks, as he told of how his children had never seen or heard their parents pray before, is still fresh in our mind.
Oh! father, mother, have your children ever see you on your knees and heard you pray ?
“Papa, why don’t we ever have prayer any more?” asked a little darling as she climbed on her papa’s knee. The child had been with her parents to the meeting that night, and heard us as we had tried to wake up the parents and make them see their responsibilities. That backslidden father looked across to the backslidden mother.
“You and mamma used to pray, papa; why don’t you do so now?” It was too much. They dropped at the same chair with the precious little darling kneeling down between them, and Jesus came into that home and these two wandering sheep came back to the fold.
What about your private life? Have your children heard you pray. We wonder, oh, we wonder, how many girls and boys are kept out of the kingdom because they never see their parents on their knees praying to God. How thankful the writer is that he was brought into this life by a father who would pray. He always had time to pray. The wheat might be ready to fall, or the men ready to start the thresher, or somebody waiting, but father would pray, and when before the Bar we stand by his side, we can testify, to angels and redeemed men, that father would pray. When he came to his last days on earth, often did we hear him tell the Lord he was ready and wanted to go home. Much like Hezekiah, he was not afraid for God to look over his record, neither was he afraid to go.
Suppose you were dying tonight, how would you pray? What about your private actions?