Do you love the Lord Jesus?
Shortly afterwards something else occurred. A lady – the wife of a German Lutheran pastor – joined the ship at Cape Town. She was going to Germany for medical treatment. A day or two later she approached me and asked me whether I knew the Lord or not. I must have stared at her rather blankly for she suddenly burst into happy laughter. First I am instructed by a ‘Baptist’ and then I am asked to buy an English Bible, and now, here a woman was asking me if I knew the Lord Jesus. She asked her question again. What could I answer? So she promenaded with me on the deck and told me of Him. I had never seen Him in that light before. She spoke simply, plainly and naturally of her love for Him and how she trusted Him fully and unreservedly for everything. It impressed me as something entirely new and strange. My mind went back to the last time we blew our trumpets on Table Mountain and I remembered the words of that hymn. Here was a woman who truly seemed to know what is meant to commit one’s ways unto Him. Who reigns over heaven and earth. Many an hour I sat with her, hungry and thirsty. I could never get enough.
Then came the blow which nearly crushed me completely. The illness of this dear woman took a tragic turn and eventually she sank into mental darkness. This, so it seemed to me, was the consequence of her ‘persuasion.’ In the dark hours of the night I lay in the stillness, thoughts milling through my head. ‘Yes, making too much of Jesus Christ and of conversion and of the New Birth results in religious mania,’ I concluded; ‘I shall definitely be most careful. The best thing is to stay as I am. Rather be without peace and with a troubled conscience than be mad.’ How foolish I was. How torn.
My position, I knew, was precarious. Clutching, however, at what straw of comfort I could, I persuaded myself that if I plunged into study I might attain to some degree of leniency at the hands of the Divine Judge. Surely if I did my best I would be punished less severely. Did not the Bible say that it should be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in that day of judgement than for the cities of Galilee? Therefore if only I could study most diligently and thereafter work hard, preaching, baptising and administering Holy Communion, perhaps I would be on the same level as Tyre and Sidon.
Again I visualised myself in a clerical robe doing all these things, and even enjoyed the thought.
Would I not look handsome in the long, black official gown and bands? I would be an important person, a man who would have a say in matters. It would mean more than blowing of trumpets and riding horses. Impure as these thoughts were, I did not shrink back from them.
One night, as I stood at the bow of the ship looking northwards towards my destination the daughter of the Baptist minister came up to me and asked kindly, ‘Homesick?’
When I did not answer she began to draw sweet pictures of her childhood in a happy home. Softly, as from a great distance, she then spoke of the Lord Whom she loved and Whom her father was privileged to serve. I remained silent and gazed into the waves glinting as the ship cut them in two. Then I turned and saw the Southern Cross deep down on the horizon. Home was now far away but another home beckoned through the words of the young girl, the home of the heart. Here stood a young girl who really seemed to understand what that meant.
The girl now stopped speaking and looked thoughtfully into the tropical sky. Then she said: ‘Excuse me, please, I have disturbed you.’
She put her hand on her father’s arm – for he had quietly joined us – and both continued their walk under the bright starry heavens.
How do you tell a lady that she should stay – that you longed for her to go on and on talking? What must you do to understand the true meaning of what she is saying? A heavy sigh escaped me as I looked our over the dark unfathomable water. ‘I shall have to study much till I find and apprehend’ I thought.