R.A. Torrey Sermons 

"And a man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a way land. Isaiah 32:2

I have a very precious old testament text to-night. I love the Old Testament, it is full of Christ-Isaiah xxxii. 2: "And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."

A good many years ago I was traveling on the continent visiting some of the art galleries of Germany, and I saw a picture in the new art gallery in Munich that made a very deep impression on my mind. It represented the approach of a storm; the thunder clouds were rolling up thick and ominous; the trees were bending before the first approach of the oncoming tempest. Horses and cattle were scurrying across the fields in fright, and a little company of men, women and children, with bowed forms, blanched faces, and terror depicted in every look and action, were running before the storm in search of a hiding-place. I do not suppose it was the artist's intention, but it has always seemed to me that this piece was an accurate representation of every human life. Every man and woman needs a hiding-place. You may say a hiding-place from what? A hiding-place from four things.

1. A Hiding-Place, needed from an accusing Conscience.-- First of all, every one of us needs a hiding place from the accusations of our own conscience. Every man and woman here to-night has a conscience, and every man and woman here to-night has sinned against their own conscience. There is no torment like the torment of an accusing conscience. We do not have to go to the Word of God to find that out. We find it in heathen literature as well. It was not a Christian poet, but a heathen of about the time of Christ, the Latin poet Juvenal, who said:

"Trust me, no torture that the poets feign
Can match the fierce, unutterable pain
He feels, who, night and day, devoid of rest,
Carries his own account in his breast."

It was another heathen poet, though he lived in a Christian land, the poet Lord Byron, who wrote:

"Thus the dark in soul expire
Or live like scorpion, girt with fire,
Thus writhes the soul remorse hath riven,
Unfit for earth, undoomed for heaven;
Darkness above, despair beneath,
Around him gloom, within him death."

But we do not need to go to the poets to find out the torments of an accusing conscience. We find them round about us every day in actual life and experience. One night at the close of a service, at the church of which I am now pastor in Chicago, there came to me a woman with a haunted face and said, "I would like to see you in private." I replied, "If you will come to my office tomorrow at 2 p.m., I will have the pastor there; and if you have anything to say we shall be glad to listen."

The next day at 2 o'clock the woman came to my office, and Mr. Hyde, the pastor, was present, and I said to the woman, "Now what is the trouble?" She made an effort to speak, and failed. Again I said, "What is the trouble?" Now she made an effort, and again failed. For the third time I said, "What is the trouble? We cannot help you unless you tell us your trouble." Then she gasped out, "I have killed a man. It was fourteen years ago, across the Atlantic Ocean, in the Old Country, in the darkness of a forest, I drove a dagger into a man's throat, and dropped the dagger and ran away. He was found in the forest with the dagger by his side. Nobody suspected me, but everybody thought he had committed suicide. I stayed there two years, and nobody ever suspected me; but I knew I had done it, and was wretched and at last I came to America to see if I could find peace here. First I went to New York and then came to Chicago, and I have been here twelve years, but have not found peace. I often go to the lake, and stand on the pier and look into the dark waters beneath, and I would jump in if I were not afraid of what may lie beyond death." Haunted and hunted by her own conscience for fourteen years! Hell on earth! Well, some one says, I can very readily see how a person who has committed so awful a deed as that, staining her hands with human blood, should be haunted by her conscience. But I have never done a thing like that.

That may be, but you have sinned; and when conscience points at us the finger of accusation, we do not so much balance up the greatness or the smallness of our sin. But you say, "My conscience doesn't not trouble me." That may be, for it is a well-known psychological fact that conscience sometimes sleeps; but conscience never dies. The day is coming when that sleeping conscience of yours will awaken, and your conscience will point at you the finger of accusation, and woe be to the man whose conscience wakes up, who has no hiding place from his own conscience. In the city of Toronto years ago there was a young girl who had drifted there from the country.

She had heard of the gaieties of the place, and had left her home and come there for a life of pleasure, going to theatres and dances and amusements of that sort and like many another that goes to the great city with the same object, she was caught in the maelstrom of the cities sins and had gone down, down, down into a life of shame. Her conscience did not trouble her; but one night the Fiske Jubilee Singers were singing in Toronto, and some friends asked the girl to go and hear them, and she did. At last they came to that hymn with the weird refrain:

"My mother once, my mother twice,
My mother she'll rejoice;
in heaven once in heaven twice,
my mother she'll rejoice."

The poor girl was sitting up in the gallery, and as she heard the strains of that chorus floating up to her, all the memory of her childhood came back; she was a child, and at home again, in the old home. It was evening; the lamp stood upon the table, another sweet-faced mother glad there with open Bible on her lap, and she a little girl of four, with golden hair, was kneeling at her mother's knee, learning to pray.

It all came back again to her. Again the Jubilee Singers came to that refrain:

"My mother once, my mother twice,
My mother she'll rejoice;
in heaven once in heaven twice,
my mother she'll rejoice."

And as those words came floating up again, the hot blood came to the girl's cheeks, she sprang to her feet, and rushed down the stairs out into the streets of the great city. On, on, on, as fast as her feet, now growing weary, could take her, out beyond the gaslights into the country; and next morning, when a certain farmer came to his farm-house door, there was the poor girl, clutching the threshold, dead! Hunted to death by her own conscience.

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"We need a hiding-place from the power of sin within."