When I was about 16 years of age I found among the books in our home one very elegantly bound volume.
I began reading it, was interested; I might say I was charmed with its beautiful thoughts. I did not at first discern the pernicious tendency and purpose of the whole volume, and even when I did begin to see the drift of this venomous composition, out of curiosity I continued reading to the end.
It was Volney’s “Ruins, Reflections upon the Revolutions of Empires” – a notorious classical infidel writer. I thought when I had done reading that it had done me no harm. Indeed in those days I began to think I was so well grounded in the doctrine of Christ, so scripturally fortified in all points that all the arguments of infidels and atheists, and also American religionist could make no impression whatever upon me. But about six years afterwards I suffered much from these pernicious writings. I was passing through some trying providences, and I was in a very low condition spiritually. The Bible was as a sealed book to me; not a morsel of food, not a word of good cheer could I read. I prayed, and prayed, but the heavens over me were as brass. I became wretched indeed, then harkened, and all the past of my life as a believer appeared as a dream. I doubted its reality, its divine origin. I thought to myself it has all been fanaticism; I have myself made it all, and now it is all at an end. I sighed over it all, just a sigh. Then I became dreadfully harassed with the hellish darts of Satan, who hurled at my soul challenges, and insinuations. “Where is now thy God? If there were a God, would He not hear your prayers? Where is your precious Jesus that you have professed to know, and to be in such intimacy with? It is all a farce, a delusion; the Bible is only cunningly devised fables; there is no God. Christ crucified is all foolishness, like all other religions.” Then Satan hurled at me and tormented my soul with sophistries of that cursed book of Volney’s. I had no heart and I found no words to pray. I felt that were useless; for how did I know that God is and that Jesus Christ ever liveth to make intercession for transgressors? I found that all my reasoning powers were not sufficient to repel the arguments of Volney, so I was as one thrust through, cast down in the battle and trampled under the feet of my foes. But I sighed and moaned over my condition, 0, sometimes I sighed and moaned unto God, yearned after Jesus. Yes, there would spring up thoughts in spite of satan, in spite of Volney, in spite of all my vileness, hardness of heart, and unbelief, that surely God is, Jesus is, surely my past hope and comfort in Him as my Savior and Friend was not a delusion. I would say to myself, Surely it was a gracious power beyond what is mine beyond all the power of creatures that so wrought in me, moving me, a vile sinner, toward God with a broken contrite heart; and that also wrought such blessedness in me of forgiveness, justification and hope of eternal life through the knowledge of Him, the precious Savior, Jesus Christ. But in a few moments I would sink again in the deeps, bemoaning myself; just about hopeless. I was in this condition about three months. All this time I constantly read the bible, for hours, every day, and I was preaching every Sunday. Some one may ask, How could you do it? I can now see that it was surely of the Lord that I did so. I preached what the Holy Scriptures taught; I declared things according to my past experience; but I was plagued all the time with dreadful fears that there was no divine origin to it, that it was imaginary; an idle tale. To tell all the particulars of this battle, and how out of weakness I was made strong, and was triumphant over all my foes, Volney included, would occupy too much space; but I must tell you a little of it to the praise of the glory of Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.
One day as I was walking along a street in the city where I lived, burdened and cast down, I began thinking about what were the scriptural evidences of divine life in the soul. In a sort of theoretical way I scanned the subject. Then I questioned myself.
What proof have I of any such evidences? I said to myself, I have none. All that I can discern are a few faint sighs, and once and a while a few feeble longings after Jesus the Savior. I thought that if there is any spiritual life in my soul it is very low. But would there be, though ever so weak, any sighs and longings after the living God if there were no life? And in the twinkling of an eye my answer was, I am not dead in trespasses and sins. I almost shouted the words out. Then I felt my heart to be warming with fervent longings toward Jesus, the dear Lamb of God; my hardness was gone; I was broken and contrite in heart before the Lord, confessing my vileness, telling Jesus my wretchedness. 0 my trust was in the blood and righteousness of Christ. This was my breastplate, and for my helmet the Holy Ghost put upon me the precious hope of eternal salvation. I felt God pardoneth all my iniquities; He is my God, my Friend, my Rock, my All; I know that He is, and that He is my Salvation
I stood and faced my foes. Where were all my sins, all the tauntings of the Devil, all the cunning craftiness, and mighty reasonings of the infidel? They were fled, they were scattered as the chaff before the wind, they were trodden under my feet; for Christ and His everlasting gospel were now in me, not in word only, but in power, in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. A little while after this I espied in the bookcase the elegantly bound Volney’s Ruins, but its elegance stirred no pity in my heart; I took hold of it, and into the fire it went. About nine months ago some unknown person sent me about forty volumes of religious works, all in excellent bindings, and some of them costly books. I glanced through them, that was enough. I burnt and thus destroyed them every one. Could I not have sold them, given them away? No! They were full of false teachings, heresies.
Some of the brethren long ago had a bonfire of books (Acts 19:19) – Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.).
FREDERICK W. KEENE
THE LONE PILGRIM,
Volume 3, No. 30,