FAITH THE GIFT OF GOD
I remember when I first began to read the Bible (and I thought I was sincerely seeking the truth) I was miserable because I could not believe it; I dared not reject any statement I found there, but I could not fully believe it was true. The Bishop of Natal, J. W. Colenso, just expresses what I felt, and the fact that we took exactly the same University honours (in different years of course) makes me sympathize with him peculiarly. My own history was just this: I had read and studied deeply in mathematics, had mastered every fresh subject I entered upon with ease and delight;
had become accustomed (as every exact mathematician must do) to investigate and discover fundamental differences between things which seem to the uninitiated one and the same; had seen my way into physical astronomy and the higher parts of Newton’s Principia, and been frequently lost in admiration of his genius till St. Mary’s clock warned me that midnight was past three hours ago. I had, in fact as we say, made myself master of dynamics, and become gradually more and more a believer in the unlimited capabilities of my own mind.’ This self-conceited idea was only flattered and fostered by eminent success in the Senate House, and by subsequently obtaining a Fellowship at Trinity, and enjoying very considerable popularity as a mathematical lecturer.
It would have spared me many an hour of misery in after days had I really felt what I so often said, viz., that the deeper a man went into science, the humbler he ought to be, and the more cautious in pronouncing an independent opinion on a subject he had not investigated, or could not thoroughly sift. But, though all
this was true, I had yet to learn that humility in spiritual things is never found in a natural man.
I took orders, and began to preach, and then, like the Bishop among the Zulus, I found out the grand deficit in my theology. I had not the Spirit’s teaching myself, and how could I without it speak “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”?
In vain did I read Chalmers, Paley, Butler, Gaussen, &c., and determine that, as I had mastered all the other subjects I grappled with, so I would the Bible, and that I would make myself a believer. I found a poor ignorant old woman in my parish more than a match for me in divine things. I was distressed to find that she was often rejoicing in the evident mercy of the Lord to her, and that she, found prayer answered, and that all this was proved sincere by her blameless and harmless walk amongst her neighbours; whilst I with all my science and investigation, was barren, and unprofitable, and miserable – an unbeliever in heart, and yet not daring to avow it, partly from the fear of man, but more from a certain inward conviction that all my sceptical
difficulties would be crushed and leaped over by the experience of the most illiterate Christian.
I was perfectly ashamed to feel in my mind like Voltaire, Volney, or Tom Paine. I could claim no originality for my views;
and I found they were no comfort, but a constant source of misery to me.
May we not compare this kind of state to that which God speaks of in Jer. 49: “Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart”? And observe what follows:”Hear the counsel of the Lord…. .Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out.”
It may now be asked how I came ever to view divine truth differently. I ascribe all praise to Him to whom power belongeth; I desire to put my mouth in the dust, and be ashamed, and never open my mouth any more, because of my former unbelief. I cannot describe all I passed through, but I desire with humility and gratitude to say, I was made willing in a day of Christ’s power. He sweetly melted down my proud heart with His love; He shut my mouth for ever from cavilling at any difficulties in the written Word; and one of the first things in which the great change appeared was, that whereas beforetime preaching had been misery, now it became my delight to be able to say, without a host of sceptical or infidel doubts rushing into my mind, “Thus saith the Lord”. Oh! I am quite certain no natural man can see things of God; and I am equally certain he cannot make himself do so. “It was the Lord that exalted Moses and Aaron,” said Samuel; and, “By the grace of God I am what I am,” said Paul; and so, in a modified and humble sense, I can truly say.
It used to be a terrible stumbling-block to me to find so many learned men, so many scientific men infidels. It is not so now; I see that God has said, “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble.” I see, as plainly as it is possible for me to see anything, that no natural man can receive the things of the Spirit of God. Hence I expect to find men of this stamp of intellect coming out boldly with their avowels of unbelief in the written Word of God. The only answer I can give them is, “God has in mercy taught me better”; and never do I sing those beautiful words in the well-known hymn but I feel my eyes filling with tears of gratitude to the God of all compassion :-
“Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God.”
So it is with me; so it must be with any one of them if ever they are to know the truth in its power, or to receive the love of the truth that they may be saved.
I feel very much for the young of this generation, remembering the conflicts I passed through in consequence of the errors of men of ability. I hope the Lord will graciously impress on many hearts the serious truth of the words, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit”; and ‘The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God”. My own way of explaining it to myself and others, when required to do so, is by saying, “it is not the mind, but the affections, which receive true religion. ‘Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth’ “.
Robert Walker of Wymeswold.