“ He knoweth the way that I take; when He hath tried me, I shall
come forth as gold.”—Job xxiii. 10.
“ I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.
“’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He I trust has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.”
OU have seen a bright week of too early spring.
The sun has suddenly poured down an unusual
warmth. The brooks and streams emancipated from
the frost begin to babble afresh. The little birds are
full of joy, and warble a welcome to the genial year. The
buds are swelling, here and there a flower peeps out, and the
first tint of greenness is upon the earth. Unexpectedly the
SENSE AND FAITH.
sun, as if he had but mocked, withdraws his smiling favours;
frost, as if he had lain in ambush, returns with his cruel
bonds ; the more adventurous flowers are ruthlessly slain ;
the birds are dumb with amazement and sorrow; and all
the voices of nature are again hushed. Life and death are
now fiercely struggling; but the former, though for a while
overborne, at length wins.
To this the spiritual world is not without its parallel. So
it fell out in the experience of Duncan Matheson. His few
days of enlargement and joy were followed by a weary
season of bondage and misery. His song of triumph was
quickly followed by the burning thirst of unsatisfied spiritual
desire, the bitter waters of a Marah experience, and all the
anguish and travail of the wilderness. It was as when the
sun has just arisen upon some benighted traveller, and he
is making his escape from fearful dangers amidst dazzling
floods of light. Suddenly again it becomes pitch dark, and
night without a star overshadows his path. During those
years the young Christian’s joy, if not also his faith, suffered
an eclipse. Like a lamb bleating for its lost mother, he
went about during those weary months bemoaning himself
with piteous lamentations and sorrow. But a fighting faith
is as precious as a resting faith, though not so pleasant;
and stern battle is the way to victory.
“Gradually,” he says, “my joy began to abate. I had
been soaring on the eagle wings of praise, but now my song
failed. At any rate, I thought, I am free of sin; but, alas,
I soon discovered that in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.
I could see two distinct principles at work in me—the flesh
and the Spirit. To an old Christian of experience I com
plained that I was dead.
‘“Dead !’ said he with a curious twinkle in his eye; ‘you
are a curiosity. I never heard a dead man speak before.
There comes nae a sigh frae a coffin, and they never cry
feich in the grave. Ye’re nae dead, but feelin’ deadness.
After having been dandled on the knees of consolation you
must be weaned, and go and fecht the battles of the Lord.’
This gave me a little comfort, but only a little.
“ Young converts live more by sense than faith, and they
must be taught that Jesus Himself, and not the comforts
He gives, is their life. The weaning time is a critical
TWO YEARS OF CONFLICT.
period; then it is a man’s Christian character is stamped.
Skilful teachers are needed to show the workings of nature
and grace, to separate the precious from the vile, so that he
who begins in the Spirit may not be led away to seek per
fection in the flesh. I was now in a wilderness, sorely
tempted of the devil. The fountains of the great deep were
broken up, Satan came down on my soul like a sweeping
avalanche, and I was tempted to curse God and die. I
staggered beneath my burden day and night for nearly two
years. Terrible were the fiery darts with which I was as
sailed. Horrible and unutterable thoughts of God, of the
Holy Ghost, and of Jesus, were injected into my mind. If
I began to sing, the very note seemed to be changed into a
blasphemy on the tip of my tongue, and many a time have
I had to put my fingers in my ears and my hand on my
mouth. These boits of hell caused me indescribable anguish
and sorrow, and never till I saw they were not mine but
Satan‘s did I get deliverance from them.
“Sometimes he tortured me about election; sometimes he
suggested that my former joy was only the joy of the stony
ground hearers; sometimes that I had fallen away, and that
according to the Word of God in the Epistle to the He
brews, chap. vi. 4-6, it was impossible for me to be renewed
unto repentance. The dread of apostasy hung over me like
a sword from which I could not escape. The journal of my
spiritual life I burned, that there might be no record of my
apostasy left behind me. Above all, I was tempted to
believe I had committed the unpardonable sin—the sin
against the Holy Ghost. ‘ You have blasphemed,’ said the
tempter one day. ‘Go and take your fill of the world;
mercy is not for you.’ I left the house, but had only gone
a little way when I was compelled to return. Taking up
the ‘ Pilgrim‘s Progress,’ I read a note, which said, ‘ If you
have any desire to be saved, if you wish you had not sinned
against the Holy Ghost, you have not done it’ I was
somewhat relieved, and began afresh.
“When I struggled, Satan said it was of no use; when I
rested, he taunted me with sloth, and said, ‘ How can you
get the blessing when you are sleeping?’ Sometimes he said,
‘Where is your joy? Are not wisdom’s ways ways of plea
santness ? Her paths are paths of peace.’ I was tempted
THE CROSS AND THE CROWN.
to Atheism, to Unitarianism, and was continually urged to
take life away. Oh the agony of those months ! I suffered
till my frame was sadly reduced. Often did I hurry to the
hillside, and oftener to the banks of the river, and my weary
wail, ‘Oh that I knew where I might find Him!’ mingled
with the flow of the dark waters. But never was I desirous
of giving up. Eternity was stamped on my eyeballs. I had
seen a sight which dimmed the glory of all else.
“‘ The cross, the cross! the Christian’s only glory,
I see the standard rise ;
March on, march on ! the cross of Christ before thee;
That cross all hell defies.
' The cross, the cross ! redemption’s standard raising,
I see the banner wave;
Sing on the march, salvation’s Captain praising ;
’Tis Christ alone can save.
' The crown, the crown ! Oh, who at last shall gain it ?
That cross a crown affords;
Press on, press on with courage to obtain it;
The battle is the Lord’s.’
“I had now and again sweet, short tastes of coming glory.
I felt as if I could have struggled centuries to reach the
goal at last. ‘ I was persecuted, but not forsaken ; cast
down, but not destroyed.’ Though for the most part I
groaned out, ‘0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver
me from the body of this death?’ yet there were moments
when I could say, ‘ I thank God through Jesus Christ our
Lord.’ Dark indeed was the night, and starless the sky,
but hope bore me up, and I felt an unseen hand supporting
me; and when the dark vail was for a little drawn aside, I
could realise the verse of Cowper—
“‘ God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps on the sea,
And rides upon the storm. ’"
A portion of the diary mentioned above escaped the fire.
A few extracts from it will serve to illustrate his state of
mind, and the fiery conflicts through which he was then
passing. Perhaps it will encourage some poor struggler to
hold on his way through fire and water till he gets into the
EXTRACTS FROM HIS DIARY.
“January 2nd, 1847. When I awoke in the morning, all
my thoughts were evil and good mixed; evil thoughts pre
ponderating. Alas ! what are my thoughts but evil ? What
my prayers but sin ? What my desires but mixed with self?
Were I left to my own heart I would perish. Throughout
the day I have thought awful thoughts, hard, wicked, un
believing thoughts of God. Satan has been raging like a
lion, seeking to devour me, my own heart helping him.
When I think of these thoughts I can well say that God for
one of them could justly cast me off. Prayed much for the
Holy Spirit, without whose aid I can see and do nothing.
Tried to rest all my thoughts on Jesus, but it is hard to
do so. I am always running after something of my own.
More settled just now (evening). Very much in need of a
humble heart; clearer views of Jesus; a heart to acknow
ledge God in all things. May the Holy Spirit open the
eyes of my understanding, lead me and guide me aright;
for left to my own heart I would go astray. Enable me to
cast my care and burden on Jesus, who can save me.
“January 3rd. Sabbath morning. Very much tormented
with awful thoughts which I shudder at. I have a fearful
heart that would dictate to the Creator of the universe.
Very much tormented by Satan, who fills my tongue and
imagination with curses and blasphemies. May God for
Jesus’ sake, on whom I would rely, disappoint him.
“Went to church, my thoughts wandering, and very
wicked thoughts rising up. Heard a discourse from Ps. xix.
Set my secret faults before my face. Mr. Millar spoke well
on presumptuous sin. Alas ! how many have I committed
even since the Spirit awakened me. It is of mercy I am
not cast off. Truly God is long-suffering.
“ Prayer meeting in the afternoon. Thoughts away, but
rather better staid than in the forenoon.
“ Evening. Mr. Hill on Psalm xvii. The poor commit
their way to God. Very good discourse. I would commit my
way, guilty, weak, and unworthy as I am, to God through
Jesus. O guide me, and give me grace to support me under
every trial. Give me thy Spirit. Impart thy love, dear Lord
Jesus, to my heart.
“January 4th. When I awoke, my mind confused, my
imagination going after every evil. Truly the thoughts of
32 A GREA T CONFLICT.
the heart are only evil, and that continually. My mind
throughout the day was a chaos of evil and good. How
terribly fallen I am, for my mind is enmity against God.
Awful thoughts were in my heart against Him. A great
conflict going on in my mind, and I am unable in myself to
submit my will to God. Oh that He would in mercy give
me a humble heart, to see and acknowledge Him in all my
ways, and to submit my will to his ! I find it a very diffi
cult matter to subdue self, my mind even taking pleasure in
confessions. Give me, 0 Lord, the heart to ascribe glory,
honour, and praise to Thee; for I have a heart that would
say or think every evil. I would, guilty as I am, put my
trust in Jesus. May his love shine into my heart, that I
may be humbled and have true sorrow for sin.
“A few moments this evening of awful interest. Satan or
my own heart is always putting much to my prayers, thus
dictating to God. What a heart! how rebellious ! Teach
me humility, 0 Lord. Give me a meek and lowly heart.
“January 5th. Confused thoughts, wicked in the extreme.
Yet self-sufficiency. I cannot check my wicked thoughts,
and my heart is very unwilling to acknowledge God. No
human reason, no learning on earth can give me peace.
Alas, my wisdom is a stumbling-block to me ; my thoughts
are so wicked, that at times they overwhelm me. Trying to
trust all in Jesus, but I see it must be a divine faith, for a
human faith can give no peace. Went to prayer-meeting,
but found no good; yet resolved to follow on to know God.
O Lord, give me thy Holy Spirit to reveal thy dear Son to
my soul. Give me a humble, broken heart.
"' O may thy Spirit seal my soul,
And mould me to thy will,
That my weak heart no more may stray,
But keep thy precepts still. ’
" 30th. The worst day I have ever had with the sugges
tions of Satan. Yet God has saved me. I need to be
humbled at the foot of the cross. I have resolved in the
strength of Jesus to be his. . . . Eternal life is worth
struggling for. Lord, make me thine; bend my proud heart
by thy Holy Spirit.
“31st. Sabbath. Thoughts mixed—good and evil. . . .
Temptations and suggestions of Satan. Heard a sermon
on the joys of heaven; was benefited, and quickened to go
forward. Temptations are my grievous lot, but what are
they all compared with the joys laid up for those that are
tried and faithful ?
“February 4th. Seeing more and more of my heart every
day. Oh that I had faith to lean on Jesus !
“ 7th. Went to church; but oh, what corruption—what
sin ! How many idle thoughts. Nothing but sin in my
heart. Meditation on the words of Jesus, ‘ Father, if it be
possible, let this cup pass from me.’ This should strip us
of all self-righteousness. O Lord, give me a heart to love
Thee above all earthly things.”
Thus far the journal of the conflict. During this dreary
period Duncan Matheson was learning the most difficult of
lessons—“ the just shall live by faith.” Mark the goodness
of God. He was refreshed at the well before he began to
ascend the Hill Difficulty. Ere he entered that dark Valley
of Humiliation and engaged in fierce conflict with Apollyon,
he was girded with truth and clad in mail. In his worst
times he could remember the Lord from “the land of
Jordan and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar;” the
memory of his three happy, triumphant days, sustained
him, and although deep was calling unto deep, he could
still hope in God. Sometimes, indeed, the tried saint is
kept from utter apostasy and atheism by the memory of a
sweet experience on the Mount of Communion.
As yet it was only the dawn of grace. Night was passing
and the day was coming in, though slowly and with clouds.
In rude but majestic outline, invisible things were coming
to view. He sees God; God is real. He is dealing with
God, but God in his holiness rather than God in his love.
He sees Jesus ; but it is not so much Jesus revealed in the
glass of the Word that he sees, as the image of Jesus faintly
reflected on the troubled waters of his own heart. The
Holy Ghost is real; but he marks his own grieving of the
Spirit, rather than the Spirit’s graciousness to him. Satan
has become real, near, and terrible; but he is not yet seen
as vanquished in the cross. Sin in its guilt and power is
now to him a gigantic Upas, on whose branch his harp is
hanging, and under whose shadow he seems doomed to sit,
and weep, and die. Mark how the valiant struggler divides
34 THE SCHOOL OF CHRIST.
his charges between the devil and his own heart, giving
to each a fair portion of the blame. He who knows sin
knows also the devil; fools, knowing neither, make a mock
of both. When a man is passing through this stage of reli
gious experience, an awful, eternal importance attaches to
the minutest element of his existence. He weighs his
thoughts in a balance. He measures his feelings, affections,
and motives by the broad standard of divine perfection. His
words are not mere empty sounds, but winged messengers
going before to judgment; and all his steps leave their
impress on conscience one by one.
Those two years were spent on the hardest bench in
Christ‘s school. That lowly seat of spiritual discipline has
been occupied in turns by all the most distinguished servants
of God. During the years preceding his conversion, he had
been taught the mad and desperate opposition of the natural
man to the grace of God. Now he learned how the flesh
lusts against the Spirit; how legalism counterworks grace in
the believer’s heart; how it fetters the liberty, mars the joy,
hinders the progress, disfigures the character, and lessens or
even destroys the usefulness of the Christian. To one who
was to teach multitudes the true way, all that painful ex
perience was of prime importance. His mistakes should
save many from similar errors; his miseries should diminish
the misery of others. Our bitterest trials are our best lessons.
Joseph studied statesmanship in prison. Moses found a
Divinity Hall in the back side of the desert. Forty years
in the wilderness made Joshua one of God‘s greatest soldiers,
one of his bravest heroes. Saul‘s persecution did more to
make David the king he was than Samuel’s sacred oil. Elijah
learned the gospel in its “still small voice” in a cave. Jonah
graduated in the whale‘s belly. Peter got his best lesson in
evangelistic theology when he went out in the dark night to
weep bitterly for his great sin. Paul was not conferring with
flesh and blood during the time spent in Arabia. John went
to the highest class in Patmos. The long agony of Luther
has lessened the sorrows of millions. John Bunyan called
more pilgrims into the King‘s highway from his dungeon than
ever he did from his pulpit. And so of thousands more.
To the Christian and the preacher of Christ, a thorough
knowledge of sin is of the highest importance. This know
A COMMON MISTAKE.
ledge, bitter but wholesome, Duncan Matheson was now
learning. “ I have found original sin in the Bible,” said a
student to Haldane. “Well,” replied the latter : “ but have
you found it in your own heart?” Few know what it is to
see all the terrible hell of man’s depraved nature. To be
let down into that abyss with the candle of the Lord in your
hand, to see its bottomless depths of pride and passion, its
tumultuous risings against law and holiness, its desperate
rage against God, its Satanic challenges of the Divine So
vereignty, its insane atheisms, its blasphemous horrors, its
cloud-covered delusions, its ambushed hosts of armed ini
quities, and its infinite capability of engendering evils enough
to waste the fairest world of God, and people many hells,—
to see all this and far more than words can convey, is not
merely to learn the doctrine, but to know the reality of sin,
so that the sense and memory of its nature, criminality, power,
and destiny, are branded as with a red-hot iron upon the
soul for ever. This knowledge is beyond the ken of short-
sighted professors and stone-blind hypocrites.
When such an one, like Luther, goes about for weary
months or years bemoaning himself and crying piteously,
“ Oh, my sin ! my sin ! “ shallow Christians and evil-doers
ask, “ What great crime has he committed ? Surely he is
living in gross sin.” All the while the man is living a holy
life, waging war against the very thought and possibility of
evil; but “a sword is in his bones,” and his “soul dwells
The young convert was pursuing holiness as a man runs
for his life, but he was partly in error. “I can see,” he
says, “looking back on that period of my history, where
exactly I stood. I had begun in the Spirit, and I wanted to
be made perfect in the flesh. My spirit was most legal; I
prayed continually, and if I lost a moment I tried to make
it up as a man pays a debt. I had a scrupulous conscience,
which brought me great torment. My eyes were fixed
within myself, and my comfort was drawn from my frames.
The Spirit‘s work in me was the ground of my peace and
hope, rather than the work of Christ in our room. I did
not see Jesus as my sanctification as well as my justification.
I did not then know the meaning of this word as describ
ing the secret of progressive holiness : ‘ We all, with open
PARDON AND HOLINESS.
face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are
changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the
Spirit of the Lord.’ Although I drew comfort from the
person and work of Jesus, I did not live on Him. I was
continually analysing my feelings, drawing comfort from
what I thought was divine, and rejecting what was natural.
Hence my hope rose and fell like a barometer. I remember
one day going out to the Castle Park, expecting I should
audibly hear a voice from heaven assuring me that all my
sins were forgiven. When in this attitude, the word came
with power to my heart, ‘ Except ye see signs and wonders,
ye will not believe.’ Indescribable pangs tore my heart at
that moment, and I almost felt I had rather be lost than go
on in the way of believing. Immediately another passage
of Scripture took forcible hold of me : ‘ See that ye refuse
not Him that speaketh: for if they escaped not who refused
Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape,
if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven.’”
(Heb. xii. 25.)
From Huntly he went to Edinburgh, and wandered from
church to church saying, “Saw ye Him whom my soul
loveth?”—“They have taken away my Lord, and I know
not where they have laid Him.” In vain his search. Back
again to Huntly he took his way for the purpose of cele
brating the Lord‘s Supper, and showing forth the death of
Jesus ; but no relief came. “ Never did criminal stand on
the scaffold with more rueful countenance,” he says, “ than
mine was as I sat at the Lord‘s table that day.” He trembled
lest his “ blood should be mingled with his sacrifice.” This
“ service was the service of the slave, not of the free.” By
and by, however, he came to know that justification realised
is the great vantage ground in striving after personal holi
ness, and that a happy consciousness of acceptance in the
Beloved is the great incentive to true obedience. He
who joys in God his Saviour cannot fight against his divine
Friend. The blood of Jesus brings purity in bringing peace.
Grasping pardon you grasp holiness. He who receives
Jesus receives his Spirit. Love springs from faith; and he
who realises most assuredly his standing in grace, walks
most steadily in fellowship, works most cheerfully in obe
dience, and lives most freely in the liberties of holy joy.
This lesson Matheson now learned. The two years’ tempest
shook the tree, but did not uproot it. If the storm damaged
the branches it strengthened the roots. The young Chris
tian unlearned frames and learned faith. He learned to
lean on the word of God, the bare word, and nothing but
the word. He was taught to trust not in the Christ of his
heart, but Christ in the Word. He was taught to “be
strong” not in the grace in himself, but “in the grace that
is in Christ Jesus.” At length realising that God was his
salvation through his oneness with Jesus he could say;
“ So nigh, so very nigh to God,
More near I cannot be ;
For in the person of his Son
I am as near as He.
So dear, so very dear to God,
More dear I cannot be :
The love wherewith He loves his Son,
Such is his love to me.”
Having been brought clearly to see the standing of the
believer in Christ, he quickly attained a well-grounded
assurance of salvation. He had given diligence to make
his calling and election sure; but he had sought assurance
in vain because he had sought it mainly by searching himself.
This priceless jewel he found where all good is to be found,
at the foot of the cross. Henceforth, although he did not
cease to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling,
he could always say, “ I know whom I have believed, and
am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have
committed unto Him against that day.” This happy confi
dence in the Lord fitted him for the work of an evangelist,
and sustained him amidst many labours and trials. The joy
of the Lord was his strength, and true of him were these
" There are in this loud and stunning tide
Of human care and crime,
With whom the melodies abide
Of the everlasting chime ;
Who carry music in their heart
Through dusky lane and wrangling mart,
Plying their daily task with busier feet,
Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat.”
During this period, in his insatiable hunger for the truth,
38 GOOD RESULTS OF THE CONFLICT.
he read incessantly, and devoured large and substantial
meals of the good old Puritanic theology. Owen, Baxter,
Howe, and the other divines of that age were his delight.
Thus he laid in a good store for days to come, and treasured
much precious seed to be afterwards scattered broadcast
over Scotland. In the course of his reading, he stumbled
on the writings of Huntington, and for a season was led
away into the dreary wilderness of hyper-Calvinism, where
some poor souls seem doomed to wander all their days,
perhaps as a punishment for their hair-splitting or their
spiritual pride. For a time he was bound in the strait
jacket of this form of fatalism. He dared not speak to
every one of the love of God, lest he should give encourage
ment to one who was not elect. After a while he discovered
his error, and was led to see that to close the door of the
universal call of the gospel is to close the door of salvation
against the elect themselves, since the only warrant to
believe is simply the general invitations addressed to sinners
of mankind. He noticed that these ultra-Calvinists are
generally unpractical, and much given to preaching in their
prayers. When one of this class was leading the devotion
by an elaborate theological discussion, some one, as Mathe-
son used to tell, probably enough himself, touched the
sleeve of the pious theorist, saying, “Ask something from
Him.” With brusque, quaint irony he was wont to say,
“ Ah ! I see you have taken the divine sovereignty under
your special patronage and care, but I have no time for
chopping logic with you; I want to win souls.”
The insight he obtained into the subtle workings of the
human heart during his long conflict prepared him for the
work of an evangelist. He could discover at a glance the
whereabouts of an enquirer. He was taught to distinguish
between mere blind alarm and genuine conviction. If the
enquirer was seeking more conviction, instead of seeking
Christ, he could point out the error in a word. Pride, pre
tence, legalism, fear of man, and unbelief in its varied forms,
he could clearly expose, and so remove stumbling-blocks
out of the way. To the despairing he could say, “I was
once where you are now;” and from his own experience
he could speak wisely and lovingly to those deeply afflicted
ones who think they have sinned the unpardonable sin.
PREPARA TION FOR HIS WORK. 39
During this period of discipline he learned to pray with
out ceasing. In company, on the street, in the railway
train, in the bustle of business, amidst the solemn fervours
of his preaching, and in the very torrent of his own quaint,
racy, picturesque talk in social life—in short, everywhere
and in all things, his faith went up to heaven in quick,
pointed, battle-like cries. When others were preaching we
have often heard him praying thus, “Help, Lord, help!
Give the blessing, and save many!”
Such, then, were some of the lessons taught him by the
Holy Spirit during those two hard and bitter years. A
thorough knowledge of sin, of the workings of the human
heart, and of the devices of the devil; a clear view of the
ground of the believer’s standing before God, victory over
his adversaries, assurance of salvation, and the habit of
praying always,—these were precious fruits in his own
experience, and through his work as an evangelist seeds
of blessing to others, which he scattered far and wide.
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