January Sermon Illustrations

January 16, 2010

Dr. William Paxton, in the closing stage of his career as a professor, told of an incident which many of his students never forgot:

On Sabbath evenings in his Pittsburgh church he had noted a young man of fine appearance sitting in one of the galleries and giving careful and reverent attention to the preacher. Shortly before a Communion season this man called at Dr. Paxton's home and said he wished to make a confession of his faith and unite with the Church. After the conversation was over and the arrangement had been made, just as the man was leaving, Dr. Paxton asked, not out of curiosity, but as a matter of courtesy, what his business was. He was surprised when the man told him that he was a liquor dealer, and gave the name of one of the best-known liquor firms in Pittsburgh. Dr. Paxton asked him to sit down again, and expressed his sorrow that such was the case, explaining to him that with the convictions he held he could not conscientiously receive him into the membership of the Church. But he told him that there was then no church law on the subject, that it was his own personal judgment in the matter, and that there were other ministers, whose opinions he did not judge, who took a different view of the matter. The young man replied heatedly that he considered the minister's attitude a personal affront. His father and his grandfather before him had been in the liquor business, and he had always regarded it as an honorable calling. With an air that told plainly that he was through with churches and ministers, he took his hat and walked out.

Dr. Paxton never expected to see the man again. He was therefore much surprised when one morning several months afterward the same man came to his study and said, "Dr. Paxton, when you refused to receive me as a member of your church I felt angry and outraged, and resolved in my heart to have nothing more to do with churches. But when I was leaving you told me that it would be a good thing if I would see what my business was doing in the city. The other day I took your advice. I followed one of our wagons about over the city. I watched it as it went into the private home, the mansion of the rich, the hovel and the tenement of the poor, the rich man's club, the dance hall, and places of amusement and of crime. Now I know what you meant. You were right and I was wrong. I honor and respect you, sir, for refusing to receive me into the membership of your church. But now that I have seen the evils of this business, I have given it up and, confessing my sins, I desire to be received into the Church."

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