“…I Offered Not One Single Word of Comfort or Advice”

I enjoyed this little narrative concerning the Presbyterian preacher, Benjamin Morgan Palmer {1818-1902}. I give you the following excerpt from the book: The Life and Letters of Benjamin Morgan Palmer.

“The following incident will show that this daring young pastor was, in personal work, a skillful fisherman of men. During the revival to be referred to after a little, a young friend dropped in for a week’s sojourn with him in his home. He appeared annoyed at the presence of the revival and would have left but for kindly solicitations to remain. Mr. Palmer did not even ask him to attend church. On the contrary he gave him to understand that he could do as he pleased. The youth, however, chose to attend, having nothing better to do. After a little he developed a restlessness and an irritation of manner.

“Thus,” to let Mr. Palmer tell the story in his own words, “matters moved on from day to day, till the Sabbath came and was passed, and on Monday the conflict reached its crisis. I was writing in my study as he came in and sat beside my desk—breaking out, after a little, in the petulant remark: ‘You preachers are the most contradictory men in the world; you say, and you unsay, just as it pleases you, without the least pretension to consistency.’

“Somehow I was not surprised at this outbreak; for though no sign of religious feeling had been evinced, there was a restlessness in his manner which satisfied me that he was secretly fighting against the truth. I thought it best to treat the case in an off-hand sort of way, and with seeming indifference so as to cut him off from all opportunity to coquette with the Gospel. {to treat the Gospel without respect or seriousness.}Without arresting my pen, I simply answered, ‘Well, what now?’

“‘Why, yesterday you said in your sermon that sinners were perfectly helpless in themselves utterly unable to repent—or believe and then turned square round and said that they would all be damned if they did not.’

“‘Well, my dear E , there is no use in our quarreling over this matter; either you can or you cannot. If you can, all I have to say is that I hope you will just go and do it.’

“As I did not raise my eyes from my writing, which was continued as I spoke, I had no means of marking the effect of these words, until, after a moment’s silence, with a choking utterance, the reply came back: ‘I have been trying my best for three whole days, and cannot.’ ‘Ah,’ said I, laying down the pen; ‘that puts a different face upon it; we will go then and tell the difficulty straight out to God.’

“We knelt together and I prayed as though this was the first time in human history that this trouble had ever arisen; that here was a soul in the most desperate extremity, which must believe or perish, and hopelessly unable of itself, to do it; that, consequently it was just the case calling for Divine interposition; and pleading most earnestly for the fulfillment of the Divine promise. Upon rising I offered not one single word of comfort or advice. Youth is seldom disingenuous or stubborn, and the difficulty was recognized as purely practical. So I left my friend in his powerlessness in the hands of God, as the only helper. In a short time he came through the struggle, rejoicing in the hope of eternal life”

The Life and Letters of Benjamin Morgan Palmer, 1906, page 83 by Thomas Cary Johnson

Brother Shawn

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