THE STARTLED PREACHER
from Elijah the Tishbite by Dr E W Krummacher 1796-1868
There was, some years ago, not far from this place, a very gifted preacher, who for several years preached with great earnestness and success the doctrine of the cross; and who, on that very account, was violently opposed. One of his opponents, a well-informed person, who had for a long time absented himself from the church, thought, one Sunday morning, that he would go and hear the gloomy man once more, to see whether his preaching might be more tolerable to him than it had been before. He went; and that morning the preacher was speaking of `the narrow way,’ which he did not make either narrower or broader than the word of God describes it. `A new creature in Christ, or eternal condemnation,’ was the theme of his discourse; and he spoke with power, and not as a mere learned reasoner. During the sermon, the question forced itself upon this hearer’s conscience, `How is it with myself? Does this man declare the real truth’? If he does, what must be the inevitable consequence?’ This thought took such a hold upon him, that he could not get rid of it, amidst any of his engagements or amusements. But it became from day to day more and troublesome, more and more penetrating, and threatened to embitter every joy of his life; so that at last he thought he would go to the preacher himself, and ask him, upon his conscience, if he were really convinced of the truth of
that which he had lately preached. He fulfilled his intention, and went to the preacher. `Sir,’ said he to him, with great earnestness, `I was one of your hearers, when you spoke a short time since of the only way of salvation. I confess to you that you have disturbed my peace of mind, and I cannot refrain from asking you solemnly before God, and upon your conscience, if you can prove what you asserted or whether it was an unfounded alarm.’ The preacher, not a little surprised at this address, replied with convincing certainty that what he had spoken was the word of God, and consequently infallible truth. `What then is to become of us!’ replied the visitor. His last word, its, startled the preacher but he rallied his thoughts, and began to explain the plan of salvation to the inquirer, and to exhort him to repent and believe. But the latter, as though he had not heard one syllable of what the preacher said, interrupted him in the midst of it, and repeated with increasing emotion the anxious exclamation, `If it be truth, sir, I beseech you, what are we to do’?’ Terrified, the preacher staggers back. `We!’ thinks he, `what means this we?’ and, endeavouring to stifle his inward uneasiness and embarrassment, he resumed his exhortations and advice. Tears came into the eyes of the visitor, he smote his hands together like one in despair, and exclaimed in accents which might have moved a heart of stone, `Sir, if it be truth, we are lost and undone!’ The preacher stood pale, trembling, and speechless. Then overwhelmed with astonishment, with downcast eyes and convulsive sobbings, he exclaimed, `Friend, down on your knees, let us pray and cry for mercy!’ They knelt down and prayed; and shortly afterwards the visitor took his leave. The preacher shut himself up in his closet. Next Sunday, word was sent that the minister was unwell, and could not preach. The same thing happened the Sunday following. On the third Sunday, he made his appearance before his congregation, worn with his inward conflict, and pale, but his eyes beaming with joy, and commenced his discourse with the surprising and affecting declaration, that he had now, for the first time, passed through the strait gate. You will ask what had occurred to him in his chamber, during the interval which had elapsed. A storm passed over before him – but the Lord was not in the storm; an earthquake – but the Lord was not in the earthquake; a fire – but the Lord was not in the fire. Then came a still small voice; on which the man enveloped his face in his mantle, and from that time knew what was the gospel, and what was grace.