My Search for Truth Vol.1
by Henry Thomas Hamblin
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I come of a deeply religious family. My father was the youngest son of the Rev. Joseph Hamblin, one-time Baptist minister at Foots Cray, Kent, who lies buried in the little churchyard in front of Foots Cray Chapel.
Father was the only one in his family who followed the religious life. Why his two brothers and sister did not do so, I cannot say. Yet my father, although religious, never followed in his father's footsteps by entering the ministry.
He was not without talent, and had he possessed more self-assurance he might have done as well as some ministers whom I have known. But Father was too gentle and timid to take a leading part in the church, so he never got beyond serving as a deacon.
Mother was of quite different calibre; she was capable of holding her own in any situation. She it was who ruled our home, but although she used a cane to some effect at times, hers was a reign of love. We children loved her more than we did Father, although he did not cane us and was terribly upset whenever we were punished.
My earliest recollections carry me back to the time when I was being prompted by Mother as I stumblingly said the child's prayer 'Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child, pity my simplicity, suffer me to come to Thee'.
I also remember my father taking me for walks and shewing me various wild flowers, and telling me how to recognize the songs of the different birds, for being a countryman he knew them all. He used to tell me about God and how that not a sparrow could fall to the ground without our Heavenly Father knowing about it. He told me stories about Jesus and what He did and said while on earth. He taught me, too, to sing the hymn: 'When mothers of Salem, their children brought to Jesus'. I used to think a lot about Jesus.
He was very real to me and I greatly wished that I could see Him, and be like the children of Salem whom He took in His arms and blessed. It would have been lovely, I thought.
I had one brother and one sister, both older than myself, and Father used to gather us children around him and teach us to sing various hymns, such as children could understand. On Sunday evenings we had family worship. Father read from the Bible, after which we all knelt down (I can still recall how hard the floor was !) while he prayed for us long and earnestly, each one individually by name.
I also remember being alone with Mother, sitting on a little stool beside her chair. She would hold my hand while she talked to me about Jesus, who was the friend of little boys like me.
She said that when I did things which were wrong I made Jesus very sad and unhappy. I could not understand how this could be, for Jesus was not there, having gone to Heaven to sit on a throne at God's right hand, but I was willing to take Mother's word for it.
Father spent a lot of time in prayer for us children. We could hear his moans and groans all over the house, although we could not distinguish his actual words. But once, when I was near the door of his room, I did hear enough to know that he was pleading with God to save us children from perishing before it was too late.
Of course we children went to Sunday-school. I, being the youngest, went in the Infants' Class and was taught by a melancholy man whose voice was cast in such mournful tones that he might have been the angel mentioned in Revelation 8 which flew through the midst of heaven, saying in a loud voice, 'Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth.' In appearance my teacher looked like a funeral mute, and when he spoke it was as though the much-dreaded end of the world had come and that the whole population was sliding downwards into the rake of fire and brimstone, while he shouted out 'Woe Woe', just as a parting shot. Those indeed were dreadful days as regards theology and doctrine.
However, as soon as I could read fairly well I was transferred to the big school and put in a class presided over by a very likeable young man. We grew quite fond of our teacher, for he did not cry 'Woe, Woe', but told us all sorts of interesting things which he illustrated by means of rough sketches which he made on pieces of paper.
One day however the Superintendent came along and caught our teacher during one of his demonstrations and severely censured him for not using the stereotyped lessons which were issued by the Sunday-school Union. The young man refused to be regimented and thus turned into a mere pawn, so he left.
In his place we had the son of a baking-powder manufacturer, one of the two well-to-do or comparatively rich men of our church.
He was however quite a different type of teacher and was evidently tarred with the same brush as was the Infants' Class leader, for he told us that evil was the reality.
He said that if you put a bad plum in with a basket of good plums, they will all be made bad; never would the good plums make the bad plum good. No, the bad plum will always cause the good ones to rot. So he said that God demanded that a sacrifice should be made, a human sacrifice which would put everything right and appease His anger, thus preventing Him from punishing us for our sins which we had committed, owing to this principle of evil.
The teacher did not point out however that we could not possibly have been responsible, seeing that his so-called principle of evil existed long before we were born. There was a boy in the class named Thomas, and he and I together delighted in asking our teacher awkward questions.
For instance, we asked him how it was possible that plums still went bad, if what he said was true. That was a poser for him, and I cannot remember that he ever answered it.
On another occasion he spent a lot of time trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. Thomas, bluntly telling him that such a thing was impossible, demanded, 'How can one person be three persons, and how can three persons be one person? The teacher could not answer the question; quite obviously, he did not know. Thomas was triumphant.
Looking back on these and similar incidents, it seems incredible that an untrained Sunday-school teacher should have been entrusted with the responsible task of instructing little boys in such a difficult doctrine as that of the Trinity- especially as he knew nothing about it himself. If the authorities considered it advisable to teach such abstruse theological tenets to children, one would have thought that they would have entrusted the work to well-trained theologians, not to raw, unlearned men who were quite ignorant of the subject. But perhaps there were not many boys of Thomas's calibre.
I do not, however, think that any of our ministers would have been capable of training the Sunday-school teachers in the mystery of the Trinity, simply because they did not understand it themselves. I have never met anyone who did.
Actually, of course, the real meaning is this: God Transcendent is God the Father; God Immanent is God the Son; God, the Holy Spirit is the Holy Breath. Without the Son (God within us) we can do nothing; through Him (God Immanent) we are able to approach the Father (God Transcendent), and we are sustained by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God.
Another recollection. Our teacher called us together for a confidential talk. He told us that it was time that we were 'saved'. Jesus had died to save us from being eternally punished by the wrath of God who had demanded a sacrifice of appeasement, yet this did not take effect if we were not 'saved'. We were saved, and yet we were not saved: that was all we could make out of it.
He declared that because we were not 'saved' we might go to hell at any moment, where we would be tortured for ever. He added that we might die through being run over by a cart or through sudden illness; or we might even be struck dead in the midst of our sins by an angry God. We were reminded that one or two of the boys belonging to the Sunday-school had died recently, and our teacher advised us to make up our minds quickly before it was too late.
By this time l was thoroughly frightened and thought that the sooner I became 'saved' the better. But Thomas was not convinced; he argued that we were not responsible for being sinful, therefore why did God want to punish us?
The teacher replied: 'Oh, but we are responsible! We are given free choice and if we choose evil we must be punished for it'. But Thomas produced a text which he said he had come across by accident and which ran as follows: 'Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.'
'Now', said Thomas, 'if that is the case, we are not responsible, therefore God has no right to punish us. Even an ordinary man would not do such a thing.' Again Thomas had got the better of the argument, and again the teacher was brought to a complete standstill.
About this time news came to us that our beloved late teacher had been killed in a big earthquake at San Francisco. As he ran out to escape from a large building, some masonry fell upon him which killed him instantly.
I expressed the fear to Thomas that perhaps our beloved ex-teacher had gone to hell, seeing that he was so unorthodox that he had been forced to resign from the Sunday-school.
But Thomas would not agree. He said that if there was a hell it would be for the really wicked, and that there would be a Heaven of some sort for decent and good people, even if they were unorthodox. This comforted me not a little, in spite of the fact that it sounded like heresy to me.
I do not know what became of Thomas and I have often wondered how he turned out. He could never have become a canting hypocrite, that is certain. He was fair and just and wise, far beyond his years, and had a much better idea of God than any of our so-called teachers possessed.
Thomas was intellectually honest, which was not the case, I am afraid, with some of the theologians and teachers of doctrine of the time of which I write. However, although the teaching was muddle-headed, the people themselves were good and kind, for Victorian people had many virtues which are sadly lacking today.
I have mentioned these incidents in order that the reader may form some sort of picture of the religious background of my early years; and also that my younger readers may glean some idea of the dreadful ideas of God which prevailed in those far-off days some seventy years ago.
On the other hand, it may well be asked: 'Why do you give us this account of your early childhood for you could not possibly have been a seeker after Truth at such an early age?' That is certainly true, so far as conscious seeking was concerned.
But I think that we are seekers the whole of our life through, although we may be quite unconscious of the fact. There is something within us which is always seeking satisfaction. We may seek it in worldly and fleshly things, or even in highly intellectual pursuits, for we are as it were driven forward by desire. We may imagine that we really can find satisfaction in having our hopes and desires realized, but of course we find that contentment is as far off as ever.
We do not know at the time that what we are really seeking is God, and that God alone can satisfy our longings. Thus, although we may be seeking satisfaction in the things of this life, yet actually we are seeking God - although we do not know at the time that we are doing so.
But when we have 'arrived', even though it be but to a small degree, we begin to realize that although we may seem to have been the seeker and that everything depended upon our searching, yet actually God has been seeking us, and drawing us to Himself by the cords of His love.
Looking back on my life it seems to me that it has been like a magnet attracting steel filings: God has been drawing me (as indeed He draws all His children) all the time, even from my earliest years. Without being aware of the fact my so-called seeking has really been my response to God's attracting power of love.
Therefore this drawing by God must have begun as soon as my life on this earth began. Consequently it is necessary to recount these incidents of my early life in order to trace the way in which God has led and attracted me.
We all respond to this drawing process in different ways according to our individual make-up, circumstances, home life, and the early teaching which we receive.
It must not be thought however that because ours was a religious home, with Father following the religious life and Mother also doing the same only in a far less conspicuous way, that we children were a trio of saints. Far from it.
We were no better than we ought to have been, in fact often-times much worse. I can remember our little mother saying more than once that she wished she could run away and leave us, because we were so naughty. I can also remember her saying that we should be sorry some day when she was gone. As Mother was a woman of much spirit and strength of will, our misbehaviour must have been pretty bad to make her say such things !
As our parents were Baptists, we children were not baptized when we were infants, but had to wait for believers' baptism. When a boy or girl was old enough to know his or her own mind, and if he or she made a profession of faith and accepted a certain formula of doctrine, then baptism was granted and membership of the Church allowed. My brother, being the eldest, was the first to pass through this initiation. My sister followed but I, being very much younger, had to wait several years.
I am not quite sure of the actual sequence of events during this period of my life; but I think that it must have been before I was baptized and received into the Church that I passed through a very disturbing experience which happened when I was about sixteen years of age. For some months I had been suffering from extreme melancholy. I used to pace our little garden, and as it was near a church I often heard the organ being played. The strains of the music almost drove me to despair for they seemed charged with all the sadness and sorrow that this world and its people had ever known. This must have gone on for months, yet I do not know how I succeeded in evading going to Service on Sunday evenings. Instead, I paced the garden paths, listening to the melancholy organ and feeling like a lost soul.
But worse was to follow. Suddenly and without any warning I woke up, so to speak, and realized that my true identity was not this little finite personality known as H.T.H. Then I exclaimed: 'Who am I, and what am I doing here?'
During this distressing period I went to my parents as well as to our minister and asked them what it all meant, but they could not help me. I sometimes think that if at that time I could have received a little help from a competent teacher, I might have been saved from much suffering and sorrow; but alas, there was no one who could help me in the slightest degree. Also, it might have helped if I had met some wise person who could have explained to me that the personal ego was not my real Self, but merely a shadow on the screen of time. If I could have been shewn, as does Professor Mottram in his The Physical basis of Personality, that the real 'I' or core of my being is a spark, an atom of the fundamental Reality in the Universe, it might have made a tremendous difference to me in my almost despairing perplexity.
However none could help me, and so the golden moment was lost. Yet gradually the great realization of my true identity died away and I became normal, as people called it.
In reality, however, this 'normality' pushed me back into my prison, and it was many a long year before I was able to realize the Truth again.
On thinking the matter over after a lapse of nearly sixty years, though, I must admit that there may have been another side to the question. It might have been the worst possible thing for me at that age to have pursued the matter of my true identity. It may have been a premature breaking out of the Eternal Self, and this might have proved too much for me and unhinged my mind.
Truth is undoubtedly withheld from us until we are ready for it, for it is so powerful that it would destroy us, in much the same way as if we gaze at the sun too long without protective glasses we may damage the retinae of the eyes. Therefore a premature realization of the inner Spiritual Man might have proved equally destructive to me.
The experience, however, did prove to me that it was possible to have a true Cosmic experience without knowing any doctrine, or creed, or theological theories. Those around me who were full to the brim with these things had no direct Cosmic experience nor knowledge of their true natures, whereas I who accepted none of these matters had the Cosmic experience.
Consequently I came to the conclusion that the Real Thing (which cannot be described) can be found only through experience, and quite apart from any doctrinal or theological theories.
What knowledge I have of God, and the way to find God and to realize Truth, I have found wholly apart from any doctrine or theory. This is not meant to imply that I attack these things indeed, I know that they are helpful to many.
But I have to put on record that they have never been helpful to me.
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE AND A CERTAIN MR. PLIABLE
As I grew older I quite failed to understand my father's theology. It transpired that he was a Calvinist and therefore believed in the doctrine of predestination, consequently it was not easy to understand why he should pray for us children so earnestly and imploringly. If our destiny as to whether we were to be saved or lost – was settled before we were born, why should it be necessary for him to pray to God to save us ere it was too late? However, I thank God that our father did pray for us so earnestly and persistently, for we certainly needed it.
But my parents' loving zeal on my behalf was not confined to long and earnest prayer. I wished at the time that it had been. Their prayers for my conversion did not worry me very much. I was quite content that they should continue to pray for me as it seemed to please them and, as far as I could see, did me no harm.
But soon after our Sunday-school teacher had told us that we had better 'get saved and flee from the wrath to come', my dear little mother started a similar campaign. The onslaught by our Sunday-school teacher was not too bad for, being frightened by what he said about going to hell if we should be run over in the street, we were only too glad to agree to what he said, and really mean it at the time. But the effects soon wore off and we were not worried about the subject again.
But with Mother it was different. It was easy enough to give way to her gentle pleadings and really want to be a good boy - but I was not allowed to forget her concern for me.
Again and again I was asked if I had given my heart to Jesus, yet when I stuck up for myself against my sister and brother, I was told that I was inconsistent. Naturally enough I got very weary of being worried, cajoled and harried in this way.
I had been very ill, I remember, when Mother first began this process of direct action, instead of relying on prayer. I was extremely weak at the time, not even convalescent. Mother said that I might easily have died, but God had spared me. He might not spare me another time, therefore in order to be safe I ought to be 'saved'. I gave in to her pleadings, but it made me very unhappy to think that God was of such a nature, that we had to be 'saved' in order to escape from His wrath.
I remember, too, that Father began to deal with me in much the same way. He got me by myself and told me that he had something very serious to say to me. He said that it was time that I came to a decision. But Father was more reasonable than the others who seemed to think that I could be persuaded into being a Christian by argument and pressure. He apparently did not quite agree with that line of attack, but made me promise that I would become a 'seeker', and then nearly every night would ask me if I was still seeking.
I am afraid though that in order to escape his attentions and so avoid awkward questions, I often told him that I was. But of course I was not. All the badgering to which I was subjected merely tired me out, and did not make me a real seeker. However, in course of time I followed in the footsteps of my brother and sister, by asking to be baptized by immersion according to the rites of the Baptist Church.
After the morning service my father took me into the vestry, and told the minister that I wanted to join the Church. I was very emotional at the time, so that when the minister began to question me I burst into tears. All that the dear old man asked me was: 'Well, my dear boy, do you love Jesus?' I had been expecting him to question me about doctrine which might have been difficult to answer, so that when he asked the simple question, I was reduced to sobs, as I confessed that I did indeed love Jesus.
I knew then that I always had done so, and that although I was a rebel against theology and doctrine, I should always love Him, even though I might follow Him but a very long way off.
It was at a special Sunday evening service that I was baptized. I was just one of many candidates. I was conscious that the church was packed with people, especially in the gallery which permitted the best view.
The platform beneath the pulpit had been removed, revealing a large pool filled with water about three feet deep. The service was a very impressive one, yet what hymns were sung or what the sermon was about, I cannot recollect. I do remember though that the congregation was very interested and very quiet. At last the minister went down the steps into the water. Then he called the first candidate, and so the ceremony began.
When my turn came I felt strangely elated, and when I was actually immersed, was conscious of a great spiritual Presence. I know that I felt very happy, peaceful and carefree. For once, everything in my life seemed to be just right; I seemed to have found my true place and to be at the heart of an interior harmony which was the perfect expression of the Divine Idea.
Mine had not been a happy life. My disposition was not light-hearted, and my temperament was what is called difficult, consequently I cannot remember ever having been really carefree. Therefore when during my baptism I felt lifted up into a state which transcends happiness, and which can be likened only to bliss and indescribable joy, the experience was unforgettable.
When I was received into the Church and was allowed to take part in the Communion service, I was not conscious of the Presence at all. This deeply disappointed me. The joy and bliss which came to me at Baptism had continued with me for a time. Then the feeling of upliftment began to wane and finally died out, like a fire in the grate which goes out because of lack of attention. Perhaps that was why the love in my heart grew cold - through lack of attention.
Yet it is a fact that it does not seem possible to stay permanently on the mountain top of spiritual experience. For if there is anything in us which is unredeemed, or which needs sublimating, then we must needs go down into the valley again to meet our Apollyon.
I however had not got as far as that. I was more like Bunyan's shallow-hearted companion, who when he fell into the Slough of Despond turned round and went back to the City of Destruction. I responded easily and quickly to the call to the Divine Life, but I easily tired and soon gave up in face of the difficulties of the way.
Nevertheless, God had not forgotten me, although I had so quickly grown weary of Him.
It was easy to feel happy and good at a prayer meeting and to enjoy 'the fellowship of saints'; but it was far from easy to keep my mind fixed on Divine things when I was at my daily work.
There the atmosphere and the language were far from heavenly indeed, they savoured more of the Bottomless Pit. I used to wonder where all the filth and profanity came from, for such things could never find their origin in the human mind. The only explanation was that certain of my fellow-students were open channels to a belching up of evil from that plane which is like a cesspit of iniquity.
That such a plane exists we know from the fact that those who unfortunately become 'possessed' (although they have never in all their life heard such evil language ), will in their insanity pour out the most fearful obscenities and profanities.
It is unlikely that the workshop in which I spent my working hours was either better or worse than any other similar place. Consequently, what I had to go through was typical of what every boy or young fellow, who tries to live a life according to Heavenly principles, has to face.
Some are strong enough to stand fast and to win through persecution and ridicule; but alas, I was not strong, but weak and yielding. My mother used to quote a text against me: 'Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel'. I used to start out with high hopes and in a spirit of easy optimism, but before long I would be cast down and discouraged. Then, like Mr. Pliable, I would soon be back at the place from which I had started. Gradually I succumbed to the temptations of my workshop environment, and in consequence found myself living a dual life.
At home I would be the highly worthy Dr. Jekyll, while in the workshop I would be the highly reprehensible Mr. Hyde - a deplorable state of affairs which could not continue indefinitely. The highly respectable Dr. Jekyll side of me was merely a sham, a mere shell of pretence, and sooner or later the shell would crack, revealing the real state of affairs within.
It was not so difficult to keep up the deception while I lived with my family; indeed, it was comparatively easy to fit into the framework of home life. Here was a set pattern to which I had been accustomed all my life: we children were expected to act with propriety, to be well behaved, to attend public worship and so on. There were no smoking, drinking, dancing and going to theatres. To all this I fitted in quite easily, for I never found it difficult to mould myself to my immediate environment. It was a case -with me - of being all things to all men. It just depended upon my environment at any given moment whether I was pseudo-saint or rollicking worldling.
Of course this sort of thing was very bad for me. It was baneful for my health owing to the inner conflict which was engendered; it was also detrimental to my spiritual life.
The time came however when it was deemed advisable for me to leave home. Dr. Jekyll was sorry at the prospect, but Mr. Hyde was thrilled with the feeling that at last he was going to have the opportunity of really kicking over the traces and having a high old time. So it was with mixed feelings that I left the parental roof for the first time.
It was an exciting, or at any rate a thrilling, experience for it was to a small country town of some 2,000 inhabitants in Norfolk that I went in order to fill a very humble position.
The little town was not much more than a large village, but it had a market square, a town hall and magistrates' court - altogether it was tidy, clean and compact. There were also two public houses, an hotel, a church and a Congregational chapel. The glamour of it all comes back to me as I write, but alas I cannot express its magic!
After the artificialities and monotony of life in a London suburb, to be in a real country town was an inspiring change. I was thrilled; here indeed was life! I was near to the source of things, to the heart of nature. Who would ever live in a soulless suburb? I mused. The very thought gave me a feeling of suffocation ...
The Congregational people soon found me out. They had received a letter from the church secretary at home, asking them to look after me. I was invited to attend church services, to join their literary and debating societies, and to engage in various other activities. This I did, and for a time Dr. Jekyll was much to the fore - but alas, there were no spiritual life and power to support him, consequently it was not long before Mr. Hyde began to make his presence felt.
In fact, he took almost complete control of the situation.
Evil thoughts were allowed to dominate my mind. The old Adam nature came to the surface and I led a life which so far from giving me any happiness or satisfaction, brought me great unhappiness and dissatisfaction. How easily we are misled by desire. We think that if only we can have a certain thing that the gratification which it gives will bring us satisfaction. But instead we find that it yields us the misery of remorse, together with an increased sense of emptiness, dissatisfaction and frustration.
There might have been some excuse for my wild companions. They knew no better. But in my case there could be none, for had I not had glimpses of the Heavenly Vision? I seemed to be like the man, spoken of by Jesus, from whom an evil spirit departed. No good spirit took the place of the evil spirit, so that when the latter returned accompanied by seven other spirits, even more evil than itself, they were able to enter into the man and thus was his last state worse than his first.
Mine was indeed a Jekyll-and-Hyde life. And like the little girl in the nursery rhyme who, when she was good was very very good, I also in my Dr. Jekyll state lived almost an austere life, one of impressive propriety. I was quiet, wellbehaved, having no love for anything worldly or unseemly; I was content to stay at home, or to attend lectures and concerts, or engage in debates, or write and read papers.
Yes, like the little girl, I was very very good, but-!
Yes, that was the trouble. The pendulum of my life would swing too far either way - first to the right, when all was good and orderly, then to the left, when all was evil and disorderly. Like the man in the parable, the evil spirit would leave me for a season, and my life would be all that could be desired; then after a time it would return, accompanied by a number of other evil spirits, so that my last state was worse then the first.
Looking back, I can now see that God was leading and guiding me even in those days. He was giving me enough rope to enable me to learn through bitter experience, sorrow and suffering, the great lesson that of ourselves we can do nothing.
Yet it did not seem much like Divine guidance then, rather it seemed that I was being impelled by a hundred devils. In my lucid moments I pondered deeply over the situation and it became obvious - not only to myself, but to everyone who knew me - that I was deteriorating.
Also I was becoming careless in my work as well as in other things.
Friends said that if I left the town, thus breaking away from the wild set which they believed was the cause of my weakness, I might turn over a new leaf and settle down to a normal life. So that is what I did. I left the town and went to the Midlands where things were as different as they could be - the people, the way of living, my working conditions.
In a word, it was a complete change. I started off with renewed hopes for the future, and for a time did well; but before long the old story was repeated, and in each case 'the last state of that man was worse than the first'. So again I left for another place in order to make a fresh start, yet again the same thing was repeated.
It was at this time that I began to suffer from bouts of terrible remorse and periods of black despair. A very fine young man did his best to reclaim me and pleaded with me to join in with him to live the religious life.
He was about to become an Anglo-Catholic priest and urged me to follow his example. He said that transubstantiation was the great secret, and that he had known men of grossly immoral characters who had become completely changed and master of themselves and their passions, simply through believing in and practicing transubstantiation. I was attracted, but not convinced. I was attracted more by this line of thought than I was by my father's hard and harsh doctrines, but I did not feel ready to live the religious life as this good man lived it. I was much affected by his love for me and his anxiety for my welfare, but I refused his outstretched hand.
And so we parted. What became of him I never knew. He was a fine fellow, a true fisher of men, and I send him my love. (That is one of the lovely things about the Inner Life: we can send love to all men wherever in God's universe they may be. So now at this moment I send my friend my love and at this moment he receives it.)
So my solicitous friend, looking very troubled, left me while I continued my self-willed and devil-possessed way, feeling distinctly unhappy and uneasy. But the feeling wore off after a time, and once again I was following too much the devices and desires of my own heart.
It was about this time that I suffered much from remorse and was filled with the anguish of the lost (i.e. those who have lost their way). My affairs too were in a desperate and unhappy condition. So I decided to return home, for I came to the conclusion that there I would be able to live the kind of life that would be expected of me. I felt that the discipline of my parents rather austere way of living would be beneficial and that I would be able to forget the past and thus make a fresh start in life.
At this point in my story it may be asked: 'But what about your search for Reality?' My reply is that I cannot remember making any conscious search for Ultimate Truth at all, so that my search - if such it could be called - was quite unconscious on my part. I was searching by not searching, so to speak.
Because I was seeking for satisfaction where it could not be found - in excesses, in sensation, in the things of this world and the flesh -it does not follow that I was not seeking God. There was something within me which responded to the drawing power of God who is Love, but the trouble was that I sought satisfaction in the wrong things -in the broken cisterns of the world and the flesh- instead of in the Living Fountains which can never fail.
We may possess great powers and possibilities, yet if our lower nature is not redeemed or sublimated, these powers and possibilities may find expression in unregenerated forms.
It would seem that in the case of some of us, these powers become awakened before we are ready for such a thing to happen. My good Anglo-Catholic friend said that he could see great possibilities in me, and that if only they could be harnessed to the right cause, or be sublimated, then my life would become a channel of considerable blessing. But how to bring about this change he did not know, neither did I.
It is I think a true saying that a great sinner, if thoroughly converted, can become a great saint. I have been a great sinner; indeed, at times I have confessed to God that I was the greatest of sinners (and I meant it), consequently I ought to by now to have become a great saint, but, alas, I see no signs. But I can say that I loathe the things which I once loved, and that my only ambition now is to follow Him who has blazed the trail and trodden the path that we all must tread. It gives me a thrill to think that we are all traveling along the same path - 'the path the saints have trod'.
We are all one brotherhood, one fellowship of saints, and this includes the weakest and humblest among us. We belong to that company among which none wants to be ministered to but only to minister, and to be looked upon as the least of all.
When the disciples argued as to which should be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, they showed that they were not ready for the Kingdom. For those who are heavenly-minded have no desire for preferment: they are content to take the lowest seat at the table.
Adopting for a moment the conventional idea of Heaven as a walled city with a gate in it, presided over by St. Peter, I love to imagine myself (if ever I get thus far) as slipping in unobserved while St. Peter is engaged in attending to some matter of importance and then hiding myself in a corner where no one would notice me, where I could join in the singing and praise, pouring out my heart in gratitude and love to my Lord…..
I decided therefore to wind up my affairs and to leave the town. This was a sad business, for I had some good friends who had stood by me through thick and thin. They knew that I was almost penniless yet one gave me a shilling- which was all he possessed; another had no money but insisted on my accepting a wonderful walking stick which he had made. This was his greatest pride and pleasure, so I accepted it because of the love which lay behind it.
And so it went on ... We were a small group - all victims of human frailties, but all good friends, always willing to share what we had and to trust the morrow to provide for its own necessities.
Thus came to an end the first phase of my pilgrimage or, as some might prefer to term it, my career as a modern prodigal son. I was at this time less than twenty-three years old and had been away from home about four years, yet I had worked in no fewer than three different places.
So I had nothing about which to boast for I had achieved nothing. I was a complete failure, a ne'er-do-well or, as my brother described me, 'a messer'. However, God was leading me and He can teach us more through our failures than through our successes.
As I look back on those far-off days, my heart is filled with devout thankfulness and gratitude to God for exercising a restraining influence upon my life. I almost went to the devil - but not quite. It was the love of God which saved me from complete self-destruction. Although always on the brink, love kept me from falling over.
"My Search for Truth Vol.1" by Henry Thomas Hamblin
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