Machen’s Doubts

 In the early 1900s, J. Gresham Machen faced intense spiritual struggles – he was asking some deep questions about Christianity.  There were three people who helped him through it: Francis Patton, Bishop Blougram, and his own dear mother.  Here’s what he said of his mother – how she helped him through his spiritual struggles.

“Another thing used to be said to me by my mother in those dark hours when the lamp burned dim, when I thought that faith was gone and shipwreck had been made of my soul.  ‘Christ,’ she used to say, ‘keeps firmer hold on us than we keep on him.'”

“That means, at least, when translated into worldly terms, that we ought to distrust our moods.  Many a man has fallen into despair because, losing the heavenly vision for a moment, passing through the dull lowlands of life, he takes such experience as though it were permanent, and desserts a well-grounded conviction which was the real foundation of his life.  Faith is often diversified by doubt, but a man should not desert the conviction of his better moments because the dark moments come.”

“But my mother’s word meant something far deeper than all that.  It meant rather that salvation by faith does not mean that we are saved because we keep ourselves at every moment in an ideally perfect attitude of confidence in Christ.  No, we are saved because, having once been united to Christ by faith, we are his forever.  Calvinism is a very comforting doctrine indeed.  Without its comfort, I think I should have perished long ago in the castle of Giant Despair.”

Found on page 561 of Machen’s Selected Shorter Writings.

shane lems

3 thoughts on “Machen’s Doubts”

  1. His metaphors of a long dull lowlands and the Castle of Giant Despair remind me of Pilgrim’s Progress.

    Often I’ll use giants of the faith like Machen to kick me out of my own complacency. It’s comforting to know that their own personal strength and ability were as feeble as my own, and that I too can rely on the same strength that made their writing so powerful.

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