IV. Seeking Heart Must Choose
For sinners and for defeated Christians Tom Haire feels only pity and a great sorrow of heart, but toward sin itself his attitude is one of stern, unsmiling hostility. To him sin is the cause of all our human woe, the veil that shuts us out from the blessed presence of God. It is never to be tolerated in any form by anyone who wishes to follow Christ.
From his view of sin it naturally follows that he holds repentance to be indispensable to salvation. His usually mild language becomes sharp and imperious as he calls his hearers to forsake iniquity and turn to God. For him there can be no compromise with wrongdoing. The seeking heart must make its eternal choice, either to serve sin and suffer the everlasting displeasure of God or to forsake all sin and enter into the divine fellowship through the mercies of Christ.
If you were to ask Tom what he considers the greatest hindrance to prayer he would answer instantly, unconfessed sin. And in coming to God the first thing to deal with is sin in the life. But for all that, it never enters his mind that he can atone for his sins by any kind of penance or self-punishment. Forgiveness is a free gift of God based upon the work of Christ on the cross and is never to be had on any other terms than faith. When a sin has been forsaken and confessed it is at that moment forgiven, never to be remembered against us forever. No possible good can come from brooding over it. It is gone for good.
Learned theologians have a fancy name for the doctrine of sin. They call it "hamartiology." In all probability Tom would not recognize the word if he chanced to come upon it, but his own hamartiology is fully adequate. He likes to recall that with God, forgiving and forgetting are the same thing. When God forgives, he forgets. Then Tom sums up his joyous personal theology in a single sentence, "If God forgets," he asks happily, "why should I remumber?"
Tom has made two visits to the United States within the last few years. As he approached our shores for the first time he hid himself away on board the ship and sought the face of God in great earnestness to know what he should say to the "Amuricans." What God said to him, or what he seemed to hear God say to him, was so deep and wise that it should be seriously studied by every one of us. Whether it was the very voice of God or only the crystallization of a wisdom that had come to him through long years of praying matters not at all. It is too wise and wonderful to ignore.
"When you get to America," the Voice said within him, "don't get mixed up in doctrinal trifles. Don't pay any attention to their heads. Just look at their hearts. You will find their differences to be of the head; their similarities to be of the heart. So talk to their hearts. Don't read up on the religious situation in America. Don't try to fit into things or please people. Just talk to them straight out of your heart. Tell them the things I have told you, and you will get on all right." Fortunately Tom had the courage and good sense to obey these wise admonitions.
Tom Haire, like many another uneducated man, takes an attitude of meek deference toward all learning, and gazes with great respect upon any man he considers learned. But his confidence in his own kind of learning makes him bold to speak out even in the presence of the great. "My knowledge," he says, "has been all on the experiential plane. I have never had the slightest interest in theology as a mere theory. There is an anointing which teaches all things so that we need not that any man teach us." This attitude he holds in complete humility without bigotry and without arrogance. Once I talked to him about the views held by certain unbelieving intellectuals that seemed to contradict his views. He advanced no arguments to support his position. He bowed his head and spoke in a low voice: "But they've never been where I've been," he said simply.
I have not felt free to ask Tom outright what books he has read. I only know that I have never seen him with any book except the Bible. It is altogether safe to assume that he has not read any of the devotional writers of the ages, yet his whole spiritual outlook is that of an evangelical mystic. There is a catholicity about him that would have made him completely at home with the great saints of the past. He could have preached to the birds along with Francis of Assisi (though his practical Irish mind would likely have inquired, "Shure, and what is the guid of it all?"). He might have sung across England with Richard Rolle, or sat in silence with George Fox, or preached in a cemetery with John Wesley. And when the fiery logic of Charles Finney had devastated a congregation Tom might have come among the terrified seekers with his Bible and his wise words of instruction and led them straight to God.
The spiritual outlook of this twentieth century Irishman is so near to that of the fourteenth century Germans, Eckhart and Tauler, and the seventeenth century Frenchman, Fenelon, as to create a suspicion that he may be indebted to their writings for many of his ideas. But such is positively not the case. In all our dozens of conversations and our long prayer seasons together he has never so much as mentioned their names, nor has he ever quoted from their writings so much as one sentence. To him they simply do not exist. The only explanation for the remarkable resemblance between these Christian men so far removed in time is that the same Holy Spirit taught all of them, and where He can find listening ears He always teaches the same things. There is a unity of spiritual beliefs among men of the Spirit that jumps centuries, denominational gulfs and doctrinal hedges and perfects a communion of saints in spite of every effort of devil or man to keep them apart.
From THE PRAYING PLUMBER OF LISBURN - A Sketch of God's Dealings with Thomas Haire by A. W. TOZER. Published in 1954 in The Alliance Weekly magazine. It has been explicitly authorized by the Alliance Life editors to be made available free online. The only stipulations are: 1) The work may only be made available for FREE. 2) The following citation must appear: Originally published in the Alliance Weekly (now Alliance Life) January 6, 13, and 20, 1954. Used by permission. Creative Commons license: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0.
Insights of the past for the present
Plumber of Lisburn - A.W. Tozer
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.