I want to tell you how I got my eyes open to the truth that God loves the sinner. When I went over to Europe I was preaching in Dublin, when a young fellow came up to the platform and said to me that he wanted to come to America and preach. He had a boyish appearance; did not seem to be over seventeen years old. I measured him all over, and he repeated his request, and asked me when I was going back. I told him I didn't know; probably I should not have told him if I had known. I thought he was too young and inexperienced to be able to preach. In course of time I sailed for America, and hadn't been here long before I got a letter from him, dated New York, saying that he had arrived there. I wrote him a note and thought I would hear no more about him, but soon I got another letter from him, saying that he was coming soon to Chicago, and would like to preach. I sent him another letter, telling him if he came to call upon me, and closed with a few common-place remarks. I thought that would settle him, and I would hear no more from him. But in a very few days after he made his appearance. I didn't know what to do with him. I was just going off to Iowa, and I went to a friend and said: "I have got a young Irishman -- I thought he was an Irishman, because I met him in Ireland -- and he wants to preach. Let him preach at the meetings -- try him, and if he fails, I will take him off your hands when I come home." When I got home -- I remember it was on Saturday morning -- I said to my wife: "Did that young man preach at the meetings?" "Yes." "How did they like him?" "They liked him very much," she replied: "He preaches a little different from you; he preaches that God loves sinners." I had been preaching that God hated sinners; that he had been standing behind the sinners with a double-bladed sword, ready to cut the heads of the sinners off. So I concluded if he preached different from me, I would not like him. My prejudice was up. Well, I went down to the meeting that night, and saw them coming in with their Bibles with them. I thought it was curious. It was something strange to see the people coming in with Bibles, and listen to the flutter of the leaves. The young man gave out his text, saying: "Let us turn to the third chapter of John, and sixteenth verse: 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'" He didn't divide up the text at all. He, went from Genesis to Revelation, giving proof that God loved the sinner, and before he got through two or three of my sermons were spoiled. I have never preached them since.
The following day -- Sunday -- there was an immense crowd flocking into the hall, and he said, "Let us turn to the third chapter of John, sixteenth verse: 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life;'" and he preached the fourth sermon from this verse. He just seemed to take the whole text and throw it at them, to prove that God loved the sinner, and that for six thousand years he had been trying to convince the world of this. I thought I had never heard a better sermon in my life. It seemed to be new revelation to all. Ah, I notice there are some of you here who remember those times; remember those nights. I got a new idea of the blessed Bible. On Monday night I went down and the young man said, "Turn to the third chapter of John, sixteenth verse;" and he seemed to preach better than ever. Proof after proof was quoted from Scripture to show how God loved us. I thought sure he had exhausted that text, but on Tuesday he took his Bible in his hand and said: "Turn to the third chapter of John, sixteenth verse,'" and he preached the sixth sermon from that verse. He just seemed to climb over his subject, while he proved that there was nothing on earth like the love of Christ, and he said "If I can only convince men of His love, if I can but bring them to believe this text; the whole world will be saved." On Thursday he selected the same text, John iii., 16, and at the conclusion of the sermon he said: "I have been trying to tell you for seven nights now, how Christ loves you, but I cannot do it. If I could borrow Jacob's ladder and climb up to heaven, and could see Gabriel there and ask him to tell me how much God loves me, he would only say, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish; but have everlasting life." How a man can go out of this tabernacle after hearing this text, saying, "God does not love me," is a mystery to me.