"Not Many Mighty, Not Many Noble, Are Called." A Sequel to the Story of a Winter Day's Drive

 •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 14
I HAD the privilege early in the year, in the pages of this magazine, of telling the story of a winter day’s drive. I was permitted to relate this interesting episode in my own little life, and I did it with the true desire that God might use the quotation of the beautiful scriptures to the blessing of many readers of the paper.
It is a great joy and pleasure to find that the incident of this journey with the country clergyman, has awakened the greatest interest. Scores of friends have written to the Editor about it. Some saying how the Word of God came home to them with tenfold greater power than ever, as they read the joyful tidings “HE THAT BELIEVETH ON THE SON HATH EVERLASTING LIFE” (John 3:3636He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)). Some have told how, although heretofore knowing their sins were forgiven, yet they had never known anything or true assurance of salvation, or understood what the possession of eternal life meant, until the words of the Apostle came home to their hearts, “THESE THINGS HAVE I WRITTEN UNTO YOU THAT BELIEVE ON THE NAME OF THE SON OF GOD; THAT YE MAY KNOW THAT YE HAVE ETERNAL LIFE” (1 John 5:1313These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13).) A few friends have asked how I knew the clergyman had received the truth of assurance into his soul, through my conversation with him, Several also inquire for his name, and the name of the village in which he lived and labored, and one is anxious to know if the story is true. I am also thankful to say that a dear friend informs me the article was distinctly used to bring decision for Christ to one who for many a long day had been halting “between two opinions.”
Before proceeding with the story, I venture to express regret for the delay in giving the sequel, as some have been rather impatient through the interval that has elapsed since the first paper appeared: but let me say to these various correspondents, first, you will gather from what follows how I knew what was the result accruing to that clergyman’s soul through our interview: secondly, I cannot give the name of the gentleman, because many of his relatives are still living, and I could not, without permission, use his honored name in this public manner. As to the village, I am endeavoring to get an illustration of it inserted in these pages, so that at any rate those interested may look upon the lovely rural country place in which my friend lived and labored so long and so faithfully, until he was called home to rest for ever: and then thirdly, as to the truthfulness of the story. I only reply to this inquiry which is put in a most kindly manner to say, that I know it is the principle and purpose of the Editor of this paper not to insert any narrative in its pages, unless it can be vouched for as absolutely authentic. I am therefore glad to be able to say that the simple records concerning this minister of the Gospel, and the young Christian lad, are true in every detail, and I could not expect God’s blessing to rest upon the recital unless they were. Furthermore, I desire to state that it is not for the exaltation of one who was thus permitted to come into touch about the truth of eternal things, with people socially much his superior, that these details are given now, for the first time, in the SPRINGING WELL: BUT TO EXALT CHRIST. To show how anyone who is simple and true, and above all, enjoying in the early days of conversion the freshness and brightness of the love of Christ, can be used by God’s Holy Spirit to bring the blessed truths of the Gospel so powerfully before the minds of his fellow-men and women, so that whether they be rich or poor, or high or low, they too may “rejoice” as the Apostle Peter says, with “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
I mentioned in the previous article how we drove home on the evening of that cold winter’s day. My friend was not very communicative. Quietly thoughtful and kind as ever, he now and then exchanged a few words: but it was dark, and it needed a cool brain and a steady hand to negotiate a fiery horse over the high hills, and afterwards through the tortuous lanes of the gloomy valley leading homewards. However, we safely arrived, and my friend was greeted with hearty welcomes when we reached the grand old mansion.
Perhaps three months or more passed away before I again met him: anyway, spring had almost gone and the summer days were nigh at hand. All round my home it was a very picture of loveliness. The beautiful country, just as it came from the hands of God, was delightful in the extreme. The wildflowers bloomed in utter profusion all about the highways, and the birds caroled everywhere in absolute ecstasy. In the distance, the great woods clustered around the old Hall, the Corinthian columns in front of which could from our village be seen through the trees, reflecting by their whiteness the strong glory of the golden sunlight.
It was one evening, the day’s work was done, and I was just preparing to walk to the adjoining town, when my friend the clergyman called at my home again. Almost immediately he referred to the previous occasion when we were together, and with expressions of deepest gratitude to God, told how it had marked an epoch in his life: that, whereas he formerly was constantly in doubt about the safety of his soul and the certainty of his salvation, now he declared with exultation, “I know WHOM I HAVE BELIEVED: I know what it is to JOY IN GOD.” “I am,” he said, “ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED,” and now, instead of having fears about my eternal security in Christ as a result of my want of faith, or, through any personal inconsistency, now I can rest entirely upon my Lord’s words, who said, ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me, and I give unto them ETERNAL LIFE and they shall never perish’ (John 10:27, 2827My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:27‑28)). Indeed, so much has this truth been a blessing to my soul, that I have preached about it in church every Sunday ever since I last saw you, and have constantly lectured to my people about it during the week. It makes the Word of God different, and many texts which seemed difficult, I now perfectly comprehend. The hymns, too, are more precious to my soul, and I can sing, as I never did before—
‘I change: He changes not. My Christ can never die.
His love, not mine the resting-place: His truth, not mine the tie.’”
I was very thankful to find my friend so radiant with holy delight in his Lord. His countenance, naturally bright and happy, seemed to positively shine as he spoke of Christ, of His love, and of His power to keep at all times those who truly trust in Him: then he inquired of my soul’s welfare and of those near and dear to me, and rose to leave. Just then he said: “Oh! in my pleasure at meeting you again, I had almost forgotten why I really called. I was directed by my kind hostess to ask you to call at the Hall tomorrow evening. You know the lady of the house very well, but she wants to meet you, and to speak upon the same topic that has proved such a blessing to me.
“Moreover, my own military brother, the Major, is there staying with us, and it strikes me he is a man you will get on with: he has recently returned from India, and tells everybody he is now converted. He says he knows he is saved, because the Word of God says so. He declares he will arrange a prayer meeting at the Hall, and says he has found several true Christians amongst the servants. I have told him about you, and he suggests that we should have a good preaching, as he calls it, in the park on Sunday night. He is always talking about salvation, even at the dinner table, and tells how his men in Cawnpore used to delight in testimony meetings and services of that kind: so I hope you can come, and we will have a little Christian talk together.”
Such an invitation coming from that distinguished circle almost amounted to a command, so I promised to attend some time before the usual late dinner hour, and my friend left.
It was with some feelings of trepidation that I turned in the direction of the place late in the afternoon, just as the sun began to sink towards the western horizon. I walked through the intricate path in the copse which lined the splendid park, and then turned under the magnificent oak trees and beeches that formed a fine avenue up to the Hall. I was quickly admitted, and ushered into the library, at the end of which was a range of conservatories. My friend joined me there, and in a few moments the Major, his brother, entered. He was an elderly man, with a strong military appearance. In an instant he began about his Master, Christ. Before I had time to say a syllable he called me “brother,” and appeared to be just bubbling over with heavenly joys. He mentioned how God had met him in India, through the faithful words and devoted life of a godly missionary to the soldiers: “and now,” he said, “after having served the devil for so many years, it would be a shame if I did not faithfully serve my Lord well, who loved me, and GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME.”
It was a charming evening, and everything about the old Hall was just lovely, peaceful, and wonderfully harmonious, so my friend the clergyman suggested that we should continue our conversation on the lawn, which was exceedingly beautiful. At one end, a high-built terrace overlooked the valley, with a view stretching for miles and miles away over the country. On the other, graceful elms and rare trees grew luxuriantly, and close to the house by the glass doors of the room from which we stepped, fine old cedars of Lebanon sent their grateful dark shadows across the smooth grass, as if to relieve the intensity of the glory of the declining sun. There, apparently expecting us, was the lady of the house, and in her genial manner she speedily removed any feeling of timidity, and I stood before these kind and earnest people ready to answer any question that they might be pleased to address to me.
The conversation began by a reference to my celebrated drive with the clergyman. He evidently had spoken to them before about the journey, yet he went again over the salient features of it. He told how glad he was to discover, that I was not only interested about books and other things that were so well calculated to develop my mental faculties, but that he rejoiced to find I was acquainted with the Bible and able to speak about my own salvation and to tell others about it too. In definite terms he testified to the blessing he had received through, as he put it, “the Scriptures in the 1St Epistle of John having got a firm grip of his soul.” Then he asked me to tell his friends how it was I first became a Christian, and how it came about that I seemed to be possessed of such certainty about my present salvation.
There was little time for me to think, but, like Nehemiah of old, although there was but an instant, “I prayed to the God of heaven,” and He graciously heard me: for I went back a little in my history to the time when I was a somewhat wild boy in the village. Through the influence of a godly mother I was never openly irreligious or careless, but I was too busy with other things to think about the welfare of my soul. I had many companions, and these were principally young fellows, who were sincerely desirous of acquiring knowledge, but who never troubled much about God or Christ, or heaven or hell, or had much thought about the realities of eternity.
Our Sundays were usually spent in the fields, where we read, and argued, and debated sometimes on quite philosophical subjects. But one evening, I was walking up the street with my special friend, when it suddenly occurred to me that a young man had been appointed and was going to preach at the chapel (he is still living, and is now a worthily honored member of the Royal Society). I felt impelled to go to hear him. My companion endeavored to induce me not to “waste” the Sunday evening: but I felt impelled to go. I went, and God used the words of that young man to awaken in my heart a deep yearning for God’s salvation. Almost the first words he uttered were quoted from an author whose writings I knew well, and they stirred me to the quick, and for a time I was in soul-agony, until Christ Himself was revealed to me as my all-sufficient Saviour, and I was able to rejoice and be exceeding glad, because my sins were “blotted out as a thick cloud.” Besides, soon after I met a young man, a true, faithful, well-instructed follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, who pointed out many of those assurance-giving scriptures that I remembered when we were driving together.
The lady hereupon asked me to refer to them particularly. There was some difficulty to find a Bible, for I had forgotten to bring mine, but one was brought, and I began with John 3:1616For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16), and emphasized also John v. 24, “VERILY, VERILY, I SAY UNTO YOU, HE THAT HE AR ETH MY WORD AND BELIEVETH ON HIM THAT SENT ME, HATH EVERLASTING LIFE, AND SHALL NOT COME INTO CONDEMNATION, BUT IS PASSED FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE.” Then I repeated the same expressive texts from the Epistle of John that had been so blessed to my friend, the clergyman, and ended by affirming that I believed implicitly, for my own soul’s peace and welfare, God’s word, which says, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the Name of the Son of God, that YE MAY KNOW THAT YE HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.” It was strange what an effect my faltering address had upon my hearers. The Major had punctuated almost every sentence, by exclaiming “bless God,” “that’s true,” “praise God, I know it,” and other similar expressions. My friend, the clergyman, looked as if he appreciated it, but the lady said, “Well, I should not like to be so positive, for the commentary I use at my school says, ‘It is a duty to make a personal effort to secure salvation, or to work out our salvation, because God commands it,’ and, if this be true, how can a young Christian like you be so positive about already having salvation?” In response to this inquiry, I ventured to ask my questioner to let me read the verse in Philippians, to which the commentator doubtless referred. It says (and the words are addressed only to true Christian people), “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION with fear and trembling.” Now, I said, pardon me, but so many, like the devoted author of your commentary, only seem to read so far and forget the context, which says, “FOR IT IS GOD WHO WORKETH IN YOU, both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” I understand that to mean that the salvation is already “YOUR OWN,” as it says, and you have got to work it out, that is, let others see by your life and walk and manner, as the apostle did, that you have obtained God’s salvation. This reply seemed to please the officer immensely: but the lady was not so satisfied, and still considered it to be “presumptuous” to be so positive. There was no doubt she was a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, for I knew that God had spoken to her soul in days gone by, both by sorrow and by special warnings, of which I may speak someday,—but our time had gone. I was glad I had been thus privileged to speak so freely to these, who might be classed amongst the “mighty” and the “noble”; and, after the years that have gone since the incident occurred, it makes one think of good Lady Huntingdon, who used to say she was glad of the letter “m” in “many,” for, if that had been left out, it would have read “Not any mighty, not any noble are called.” She blessed God that at any rate she was amongst the few that “are called,” and so truly were my auditors, the lady and her guests, the clergyman, and his military brother.
I had a third deeply interesting interview with my friend. He was about to pass triumphantly into the presence of his Lord. Perhaps I may be allowed to tell some day of his wonderful passing into the homeland, and how, through the steady anchorage given to his soul by the Word of God, an entrance was ministered unto him “abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
Christian workers! let us seek every opportunity to tell what in our hearts we know of the wonders of God’s salvation, and by His Spirit the Lord will carry the message home to some soul. No matter how simple our knowledge, if we are true, God will own it and use it, and give us at all times, in true humility of mind to witness for Christ, in the words of the hymn to be able to testify and say,
“If one should ask of me, how can I tell?
Glory to Jesus, I know very well
God’s Holy Spirit with mine doth agree,
Constantly witnessing how He loves me.”
G. A.