From The Clergy of America: Anecdotes, 1869, pages 169-170
A sermon illustration from a New England minister in the 1700’s.
A clergyman sitting in his study, saw some boys in his garden stealing melons. He quietly arose, and walking into his garden, called out to them, “Boys, boys.” They immediately fled with the utmost speed, tearing through the shrubbery, and tumbling over the fences. “Boys,” cried out the gentleman, “stop, do not be afraid. You may have as many melons as you want. I have more than I know what to do with.”
The boys, urged by the consciousness of their guilt, fled with increasing speed. They did not like to trust themselves in the gentlemen’s hands; neither did they exactly relish the idea of receiving favors from one whose garden they were robbing.
The clergyman continued to entreat them to stop, assuring them that they should not be hurt, and that they might have as many melons as they wished for. But the very sound of his voice added wings to their speed. They scampered on in every direction, with as determined an avoidance as though the gentleman were pursuing them with a horsewhip. He determined, however, that they should be convinced that he was sincere in his offers, and therefore pursued them. Two little fellows who could not climb over the fence were caught by the minister. He led them back, telling them they were welcome to melons whenever they wanted any, and gave to each of them a couple, and then allowed them to go home. He sent by them a message to the other boys, that whenever they wanted any melons, they were welcome to them, if they would but come to him.
The other boys, when they heard of the favors with which the two had been laden, were loud in the expression of their indignation. They accused the clergyman of impartiality, in giving to some without giving to all; and when reminded that would not accept his offers, but ran away from him as fast as they could, they replied, “What of that? He caught these two boys, and why should he have selected them instead of the rest of us? If he had only run a little faster, he might have caught us, too. It was mean of him to show such partiality.”
Again they were reminded that the clergyman was ready to serve them as he did the other two he caught, and give them as many melons as they wanted, if they would only go and ask him for them.
Still, the boys would not go near him, but accused the generous man of injustice and partiality in doing for two, that which he did not do for all.
So it is with the sinner. God finds all guilty, and invites them to come to him and be forgiven, and receive the richest blessings heaven can afford. They all run from him, and the louder he calls, the more furious do they rush in their endeavors to escape. By his grace he pursues, and some he overtakes. He loads them with favors, and sends them back to invite their fellow-sinners to return and receive the same. They refuse to come, and yet never cease to abuse his mercy and insult his goodness. They say, “Why does God select some and not others? Why does he overtake others who are just as bad as we are, and allow us to escape? This election of some and not others, is unjust and partial.”
And when the minister of God replies, “The invitation is extended to you: Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17), the sinner heeds it not, but goes on in his sins, still complaining of the injustice and partiality of God, in saving some and not saving all.
Psalm 103:8-10 — The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
Isaiah 55:7 — Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Matthew 18:14 — (Jesus said), “It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that any one of these little ones should perish.”
A Morning Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894): The day returns and brings us the petty round of irritating concerns and duties. Help us, O Lord, to perform them with laughter and kind faces, and let cheerfulness abound with industry. Give to us to go blithely on our business all this day, bring us to our resting beds weary and contented and undishonored, and grant us in the end the gift of sleep. Amen.