An Agnostic is Converted

By Arthur T. Pierson

This short story is taken from the biography of Arthur T. Pierson, who was pastoring in Detroit, Michigan at the time this encounter takes place in 1876:

"At the close of a sermon on 'Abiding in Christ,' according to my custom, I invited any person present who was impressed with his need of Christ to meet me in the inquirer's room.

"One young man of about thirty responded. He was tall, stalwart of frame, intelligent, and would have been fine looking but for a cloud that seemed to abide upon his countenance. In fact, his face seemed scarred and furrowed, as though his life had been a battle with sin and care, and be had been terribly worsted in the contest. I said to him:

"'I take it, sir, that you are here to talk with me about your spiritual interests. Will you let me into the very heart of your trouble or difficulty?'

"'Well, Sir,' said he, 'I suppose you would consider my case a desperate one. I am a follower of Robert Ingersoll [a famous agnostic/infidel in the 1800's). I am an unbeliever, a disbeliever, an infidel.'

"'But I suppose there are some things you believe. You believe the Bible to be the Book of God?'

'No, Sir.'

' You believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God?'

"'No, Sir.'

"'Well , at least you believe in a God?'

"'There may be a God; I cannot say that I believe there is, but there may be; I do not know.'

"'Then why are you here? I do not see what you want of me, if you do not believe in the Bible nor in Christ, and are not even sure there is any God.'

"'I heard you preach tonight, and it seems to me that you must believe something and that it gives you peace and comfort.'

"'You are quite right.'

"'Well, I don't believe anything, and am perfectly wretched; if you can show me the way to believe anything and to get happiness in believing, I wish you would. If you can help me, do it quickly, for I have been carrying this burden as long as I can. I am a law student, but I am so wretched I cannot study nor sit still. I wandered over here tonight, and heard the organ playing in your church, and went in expecting to hear some fine music. I heard nothing but simple congregational singing, but curiosity led me to remain and hear what you had to say, and one thing impressed me, -that you have faith in somebody or something, and you are happy in believing. My envy of you brings me in here.'

"I lifted my heart to God for special guidance, and drew my chair up close to this unhappy man and in voluntarily put my arm around him.

"'Tell me something to read,' he said.

"'I would have you read nothing but the Bible. You have been reading too much; that is partly what is the matter with you. You are full of the misleading, plausible sophistries of the skeptics. Read the Word of God.'

"'But what is the use -when I do not believe it to be the Word of God?'

"Opening my Bible, I turned to John 5:39, and with my finger on the verse slowly read: 'Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life and they are they which testify of Me and ye will not come unto Me that ye may have life.' 'Now,' said I, 'it is God's testimony and my experience that he who diligently searches the Scriptures will find that they contain the witness to their own divine origin and inspiration, and to the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.'

"'Well' said he, 'I'll read the Bible, but what beside?'

"Turning to Matthew 6:6, I pointed to the words: 'Enter into thy closet, and when. thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee.' 'If that means anything, it means that if you sincerely pray to God He will reveal Himself to you.'

"'But of what use to pray to God if you don't believe there is a God?'

"For an instant I was perplexed. But a thought flashed across me, and although I never had given such counsel to any man before, I gave utterance to it, for I felt guided.

"'It makes no difference,' I replied, 'provided you are sincere. God will not disregard any genuine effort to draw near to Him. Go and pray, if only like the famous Thistlewood conspirator: "Oh, God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul."'

"'Anything more?' said he.

"'Yes,' and I opened to John 7:17, and read: If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine."That means that if you act up to whatever light you have, you shall have more light. In God's school, we never are taught a second lesson till -we practice the first. "Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord."

"'I have given you three texts already to ponder and study. I wish to add one more: Matt. 11:28, 29, 30, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." That means that if you come directly to Jesus Christ, He will give you rest. Now notice these four texts. One bids you to search the Scriptures; one, to pray in secret ; one, to put in practice whatever you know ; and the last, to come to Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour.'

"'Is that all?' he inquired.

"'That is all. Will you promise me to go and follow this simple prescription?'

"'I will.'

"After kneeling in prayer together, this Ingersollite left me. Two weeks later, at the close of service, I gave a similar invitation to inquirers. The congregation was scarcely half out of the house, when this same man came towards me, with both hands extended and his face beaming. 'I have found God and Christ, and I am a happy man!'

"He sat beside me and told me the fascinating story. He had gone home that Sunday night, taken out from his trunk the Bible his mother had put there when he left home; had opened it and knelt before the unseen God. He simply, sincerely asked that if there were a God at all, and if the Bible were the Word of God, and Jesus Christ His Son and the Saviour of man, it might be shown him plainly. As he read and prayed and sought for light, light was given; he humbly tried to follow every ray and to walk in the light, and the path became clearer and plainer and the light fuller and brighter, until his eyes rested in faith upon Jesus."

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