SERMONS ON P. P. BLISS.
One of Mr. Moody's most touching sermons was that preached at the Chicago Tabernacle, Sunday, Dec. 31, 1876, in memory of P. P. Bliss, who, with his family, perished in the Ashtabula disaster a few days previous. Mr. Moody's subject was "The Return of Our Lord." He stood in his place, and with manifest trouble to keep back the sobs and tears, he repeated those words of David, "Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen in Israel." Then, almost unable to speak for weeping, he said: "Let us lift up our hearts to God in silent prayer." A long period of silence followed, broken by the voice of a member of the congregation, who gave thanks to God for eternal life. The congregation then joined in singing "In the Christian's Home in Glory there remains a land of rest,'' after which Mr. Moody arose and said:
"I was to take up the subject of our Lord's return, but I cannot control my feelings so as to speak as I had intended. I will take up that subject at another time. When I heard last night that Mr. Bliss and his whole family had perished, at first I could not believe it, but a dispatch from a friend who was on the train took away all hope and left me face to face with death. For the past three months I have seemed to stand between the living and dead, and now I am to stand in the place of the dead. Mr. Whittle and Mr. Bliss were announced to haid the four-o'clock meeting in the Tabernacle to-day, and now Mr. Farwell and Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Whittle, with other friends, have gone to see if they can find his remains to take them away for burial. I have been looking over his hymns to see if I could find one appropriate for the occasion, but I find that they are all like himself, full of hope and cheer. In all the years I have known and worked with him, I have never once seen him cast down, but here is a hymn of his I thought we might sing.
"Once after that wreck of the steamer at Cleveland, I was speaking of the circumstance that the lower lights were out, and the next time we met he sang this hymn for me. It is the 65 th in our collection.
"Let us sing it now. It begins'Brightly beams our Father's mercy,' but still more brightly beams the light along the shore to which he has passed. It was in the midst of the terrible storm he passed away, but the lights which he kindled are burning all along the shore. He has died young, only about thirty-eight years old, but his hymns are sung around the world. Only a little while ago we received a copy of these hymns translated into the Chinese language.
"In spite of the mourning it is sweet to think that this whole family passed away together, father, mother, Paul, only four years old, and little George, only two years old, all gone home safe together. There comes a voice to us saying 'Be still and know that I am God,' but we know that our Father doeth all things well. My heart goes out for his mother. He was an only son and his mother was a widow. Let us just put up a prayer for his mother. And there was dear Mrs. Bliss who was not an inch behind her husband. She taught him how to pray and encouraged him with his music. I have often heard him say, 'All I am I owe to that dear wife.'
"Now about that charge of his singing for money. The royalty on this little book has amounted to about sixty thousand dollars, which has been devoted to charitable purposes. I once asked Mr. Bliss to take $5,000 for himself, telling him I thought he needed it, but he would not take one farthing. Chicago never had a truer man. He will be appreciated hundreds of years hence, like Charles Wesley and Doctor Watts. He was raised up to sing in the Church of God. God be praised for such a woman; God be praised for such a man."
On this occasion the only collection ever taken in the Tabernacle was at the suggestion of Mr. Moody for the erection of a monument to Mr. Bliss, and he requested that as so many would want to contribute, that the largest contribution should not exceed $1.00.
That same morning Mr. Moody preached a sermon at the Chicago Avenue Church, and referred to the work of the church, which was built in the hope that Messrs. Moody and Sankey would return and labor in Chicago through its means. Mr. Moody said:"
"It seems as if God is calling us to other fields, and I cannot help believing that if our Christian frie ds will just come together and pray earnestly to God, that the work will go on just as well without us as if we were here. Some people get discouraged and think the work will not go on because we are not coming back. That is not the fact. Bear in mind that God is willing to labor through anyone in the church who will consecrate himself to His cause. I cannot help believing that the best days of this church are in its future and not, as some think, in its past." Thinking of workers, Mr. Moody's thoughts were drawn to Mr. Bliss, concerning whom he said:
"Why he was so dear to all of us and why we loved him so much was because he was always cheerful. We never saw him discouraged or cast down; he was all the time singing about gladness. 'I am so glad' was the key note of all his songs. How pleasant it would be if every man and woman were full of the joy of the Lord because He is our strength.
"This being the last day of the year, I have been looking forward to it as one of the most solemn days of the year, and I had prepared some thoughts to bring out on this occasion. But little did I think that it would be as solemn as it is. My thoughts have been drifted into another channel entirely. A text came into my mind when I heard of the sudden death of Mr. Bliss and his family. He was coming to the city to fill an appointment here to-day. He was to have been with us this morning and it seems almost as if I am standing in the place of the dead. It is always solemn to stand between the living and the dead, as a preacher does, but it is always more solemn to step into dead men's shoes, as I feel I have done to-day. The text that occurred to me is in the 24th chapter of Matthew and the 43d verse, 'Therefore be ye also ready.' Death often takes us by surprise, but it did not find Mr. Bliss unprepared. He and his wife had been ripening for heaven for years,and I have been thinking of that family before the throne this morning, singing the sweetest song they had ever sung. They should profit by this awful calamity. God was coming very near to this city. There was never before such an inquiring after God as there is now, and this last stroke of Providence ought to be a warning to every one to get in readiness to meet the Lord. It might be said that I am taking advantage of this catastrophe and preaching for effect. If people do not take this warning, I do not know what will move their hearts. There are three things every man and woman ought to be ready for: life, death, and judgment. Life is uncertain; no man can tell at what hour nor in what manner death may visit him. Accidents like the one which occurred Friday are by no means uncommon and might strike down any one of us. It therefore behooves every man to place his trust in Christ, so that he may be prepared to meet Him at any moment."
The Evangelist was greatly moved during the sermon and he pleaded earnestly and tearfully that the audience should heed this terrible warning and accept Christ as their Savior. There were few dry eyes in the congregation when Mr. Moody resumed his seat.
In the afternoon he preached again in the Tabernacle from the text, "Therefore be ye also ready," which he said had been ringing in his head all day. He called upon those who had heard him preach for three months to bear him witness that he had said nothing about death, confining himself to life, but it might be that before long God might lay him away and send some one to take his place, and he could not forbear saying a word urging on all the necessity of regeneration and preparation. His voice was more subdued than usual, and in all he said and all the reading from the Scriptures it came tremulously and mingled with tears. He spoke painfully and with difficulty, the words sometimes utterly unintelligible.
"'Be ye therefore ready.' Do not put it off. There are some who may say I am preaching for effect and making use of this good man's death to frighten you." Satan might even say that of him and say it truly. He was preaching for effect, and he hoped the effect would be to save the soul of every human being before him. He felt he must warn them, and would warn them of the wrath to come and the death pursuing. That death had sent many a warning during the year, and now an awful one had come. Many of them had looked down upon the dead faces and open graves of departed friends. Would they not heed those warnings? Would they not heed this last warning, which might be even nearer to themselves than any before. Death had taken them by surprise and had taken Mr. Bliss at the very time the speaker was writing out the notice of Mr. Bliss's appearance to-day. He and his wife were snatched from life but they were ready. They might have suffered for a few minutes, it may be for an hour, but when they reached heaven there was none in all the celestial choir that sang sweeter or played better on his golden harp than P. P. Bliss.
Copyright, 1900, by Kobt. O. Law.
P. P. BLISS.
The "Singing Evangelist" and song-writer, whose music was used in Mr. Moody's meetings with wonderful success.
"'Be ye therefore ready:' no matter how or when a man may die, if he is only ready. Little did Mr. Bliss and his wife look for what was coming and it seems to me that no man or woman should ever go on a railroad train again until they have made their preparation to die. We may be called upon to die at any time the death of martyrs. I would rather die like Stephen than die like Moses. I would as lief die like P. P. Bliss as die like Stephen. Were they ready? Those who went on that train saw the the sun go down for the last time. Many in this house may have seen it go down for the last time as they came here. Are they ready? You may fall down and break something, or you might have diseases of the heart that would carry you off before morning. Are you ready? There was no time to repent when they were rolling down that bank into that awful chaos and confusion. Some men were dead before they knew what had happened. God help the man who waited for a catastrophe before he repented.
"Look at that young girl. She had a deceptive cough. It was all right, the doctor said, or would t be in the spring. He said this when he knew that spring grasses and flowers would wave over her grave. How much lying is done in sick chambers and by death-beds!
"I would rather have been on that train and taken that awful leap and died like P. P. Bliss and his wife than have them go as they did, and every man should feel so who knows God and is ready to die.
"O that you might profit by the calamity!"