I AM well aware that the experience I am about to relate is in no way uncommon. I was in my fifteenth year, in 1860, when I had this experience.
I will endeavor at any rate with accuracy and brevity to describe what actually occurred in my 'Heavenly Vision.'
The setting of the scene was sufficiently prosaic. At fifteen, one summer's evening, I arrived at Mr. Charles Hanmer's Private Academy. As a new schoolboy I went upstairs to get ready for dinner, and found my bedroom.
There were two beds, and the boy who was to occupy one, and who afterwards became the well-known head of one of our most popular missions, was busy dressing. Hearing me enter, he turned round, and having asked me if I was the new boy, said, with no further preamble, "Are you a Christian?" I think I should explain, to account for such a greeting from a strange boy, that at this time there was all over England a great wave of religious revival, so that questions which at other times might appear out of place were just then quite natural.
I answered without hesitation, "No, I am not." For I knew that he did not refer to my social or church position, but to my real state before God, regarding which, being religiously brought up, I was quite clear nothing good could be said. And with whatever envious eyes I might regard those who had truly trusted their Saviour, I knew well I was not amongst the number. For though my father and mother had done the best, so far their religious teaching had fallen on deaf ears, and the seed on stony ground.
The boy stared at me. "But would you not like to be one?" he asked, timidly. "It's no use liking," I said, scornfully, "I know well I never shall be a Christian." "There's a prayer meeting tonight," he said, "would you not like to be prayed for?" "As to that," I replied, in an airy manner, "they can just please themselves, for it will do me no atom of good. I've been prayed for often enough."
As I had a slight cold I went to bed early while they were all at this meeting. When my young mentor returned I shammed sleep, for I wanted no more of his talk, so saying his prayers first, he soon turned in, and off he went to sleep. "That's all very well, my fine fellow," I said, glaring at him; "you can go to sleep, and I cannot, for you're all right and I'm all wrong."
So I lay and tossed, thinking it a strange thing that God should look down, as I truly believe He did, into that room and see two boys on two beds, one all right, and the other all wrong. I tossed about with uneasy snatches of sleep until nearly 2 a.m., asking myself why I couldn't quietly rest like that boy.
Suddenly there came to my consciousness rather than to my mind the words, "Because you won't take it." And then came my Heavenly Vision, which after all was rather prosaic. "Take what?" I said.
And as I lay in my bed, lo, I saw in my mind that I was very sick of a mortal disease, and that by the bedside was a table, and upon it a bottle of medicine, which I was perfectly sure would cure me. And there was I asking, "Why am I not cured?" And the answer was, "Because you won't take it." This seemed to me absolutely ridiculous. "My word," I said, "if that's all, I'll soon be well, for take it I will, and now!"
And then I saw that my sickness meant my state, and that this alone was the cause of my sleeplessness. The remedy clearly was belief, true, personal belief in Christ my Saviour. "Well, if that's all," I said, "I won't wait another moment." But how was I to do it?
Of course, I had known the Gospel story since I could speak, but it had never seemed to do me the least good. I could not 'take it' as I could medicine, but I saw that 'taking it' meant the act of 'believing'.
Then to my horror I saw that to believe in the medicine could do me no good, and could never cure me. I must do more than believe in its value - I must 'take it'. So here I was at fifteen plunged at 2 a.m. into divine metaphysics. But the Spirit of God was hovering over that young boy, for I thought, "I cannot do better than to settle it now."
So I knelt up in my bed, and solemnly and from my heart said aloud: "O God! I take Thy Son, Jesus Christ, to be my Saviour this night," and feeling I could do no more, I dropped asleep. The crisis was over.
When I came down to breakfast I still felt pretty much as usual, though conscious that I had undoubtedly taken an irrevocable step in the night. Still, I was surprised I did not feel as happy as I supposed I ought to feel.
The other boys had left the table, and the master came and sat by my side. "We were praying for you last night," he said; "I'm so sorry you are not a Christian."
Now, then what on earth was I to do? I didn't feel particularly like a Christian; but, then, I had told God something in the night that I was determined not to go back on. I was in a terrible dilemma; when in a moment the Holy Spirit flashed into my mind the words: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Romans 10:9). I had clearly done the first; it only remained with me to do the second. So without one particle of feeling I said, "But I am one!"
"You, a Christian!" the master said, incredulously, "But you told us you were not!" "No more I was last night," I said. "But when did you become one?" he said, completely puzzled. "About 2 o'clock this morning," I replied." "But who spoke to you?" he asked. "No one," I said, and then after a pause, "unless it was God."
"But what happened?" So I told him all, and then demanded if that made me a Christian. "It does," he said, and immediately I was filled and flooded with a wave of joy perfectly indescribable. I rushed out of the house, threw my cap into the air, and ran round and round the playground to let off, as it were, some of the steam.
I then stood still, and looked at myself critically. "What you," I said, "a Christian! It can't be you!" Yes, indeed it was myself, incredible as it appeared, but now the ego was a new self. I don't know that I felt either pious or good. But one thing was certain: whereas I was blind, now I could see; I was lost, now I was saved. And now I must hurry up and get others saved, too. Such were my first thoughts.
No doubt all this seems very childish to the superior person, but it really was not. It was supernatural and divine, and its after effects on two lives - my brother's and my own - through long years of stress and trouble proved its divine origin and character.
Accomplished in a moment, it has endured a lifetime, and I feel sure the more thoughtful of my readers will not dismiss a true record of an experience which has changed a man's entire life as unworthy of serious consideration.
- By Dr. A. T. Scofield