Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grimshaw's remarkable conversion

Lying on a table in his friend’s room was a book which attracted his attention and finding it was a theological work, he picked it up with quickened interest and crossed the room with it. He stood facing a small shelf of pewter dishes and there examined the book, which he discovered to be written by the Puritan divine, John Owen. ‘Instantly’, a friend recalled in after years, ‘an uncommon heat flushed in his face.’ Puzzled, he turned towards the fire, wondering if the sudden wave of heat had come from a reflection of the flames radiated from the pewter dishes.

Turning again to the volume he now held, he opened it ant the title page and read, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith. As he pondered on the title another flash of heat suddenly passed over him. Astonished by a second occurrence of this phenomenon, he reasoned that this must be a divine indication that the volume would be of crucial relevance to his need and so requested a loan of the book. We can well imagine that he lost little time in finding opportunity to read a book so strangely brought to his attention.

(Faith Cook, William Grimshaw of Haworth, pp 26-27)

This event led shortly and directly to Grimshaw’s conversion, and the remarkable ministry he was to exercise in Haworth. So, what does a crusty old cessationist make of it?

Honestly – nothing at all. It gives me not a single thought that I ought to revise my convictions. Nor do my convictions make me doubt the history. Why should they? What happened, happened.

Proper cessationism – that is, mine (!) does not hold that God never does anything remarkable. It does not even argue that God cannot work miracles today. I simply believe that the ‘sign gifts’ were given for an age, and for a purpose, that has now been superseded.

A cessationist is not a deist – though some of us sometimes, I fear, sound like one. We do believe in God’s direct intervention. We do believe in spiritual experience. We do believe God answers prayer – providentially, remarkably, miraculously at times.

I will admit to this, though: sometimes we are so good at seeing the speck in the eyes of some of our wiser charismatic friends that we do not see the beam in our own.

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