Edited from
VOL. 2 NO. 05 JANUARY 2000

A crisis comes in every one's life which determines, to a greater or less extent, his future destiny. A day or an hour or a moment may mark the crisis of one's fate. How vastly important, then, is that pivotal period upon which may possibly hang a decision involving eternal life or death!

Clifford Barrett reached a crisis in his wild career when he was thirty-two years of age which effectually exploded and dispelled his infidel ideas. It also brought him suddenly to a certain realization of a superhuman Being in the person of Christ and of a supernaturalism in His religion. Likewise it brought him under a state of bitter disquietude, and to a serious and fearful contemplation of the impending wrath and indignation of a just but merciful God. The decision he made in that critical moment resulted a few weeks or months afterward in his conversion to God.

That event was the preaching of a mock sermon on a Methodist camp-ground somewhere along the Ohio river. It was not the first attempt at counterfeit preaching the "Wild Alleghenian" had ever made, but it was the last one. He had gained the distinctive title of "Elder" from his lumber-jack associates, possibly on account of the so-called sermons he had preached and that he was a leading spirit in all their revelings and did not forbear to show his "broadness" of mind in matters of religious belief, nor the derision and scorn in which he held Christianity.

With a crew of six or eight stalwart raftsmen Clifford Barrett was running a river fleet from the headwaters of the Allegheny river to the lumber markets below Pittsburgh. Being driven to shore by a fierce head wind, just at the time of a sudden rise in the river occasioned by heavy rains, they had tied up the raft to await more favorable conditions. Barrett and four other men of the crew then went on foot to a town three or four miles from the place where they had landed to make some necessary purchases. On their return trip they arrived at a place where the Methodists had held a camp-meeting and had left the stand and seats on the ground, possibly as a permanent place for holding meetings. It is probable that they felt somewhat hilarious, especially if the town they had just visited were a place where whisky was sold. At any rate, having no demands on time, but with an insatiable desire for fun and frolic, they went upon the ground, and then called upon the "Elder" for a prayer and a sermon. The "Elder" was always prepared for such impromptu calls and went about the false service with a passion born of extreme viciousness. Taking his position on the stand, he announced a hymn, which was sung in part, and then made a prayer; and being pretendedly at a loss for the want of a Bible, he irreverently substituted for that sacred book one of his shoes, having just gotten a new pair, which he placed on the pulpit with the remark that he would take his text from the sole of his shoe. The text he announced, which he had likely heard some Methodist preacher use as the basis of a sermon, was this: "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God" (Psalm 9:17). From that text he gave forth an unpurposed volley of truth that wholly dissembled his real character, and that was entirely-foreign to his heart and life. He launched forth into a mock sermon using language he had heard from Methodist ministers on occasions when he had heard them preach. He warned his companions of the results of sin, pictured hell to them in language common in Methodist pulpits in that day. As he was talking a strange power seemed to take hold of him and the words did not seem his own. The Spirit of God, in irresistible power, took possession of him for the time being and impelled him to give utterance under inspiration to thoughts and truths ordinarily beyond his power of mind, with an unction awful in its sin-penetrating effect upon the hearts of his companions. And as he talked the force of his words reacted powerfully on his own heart. He was held uncontrollably by a spirit of exhortation, and seemingly could not cease to talk until the Spirit of God brought his sermon to a solemn finish. The opportune time for his awakening had come,   (continued in next column)

and God used the means best suited to his needs, such as would loosen the shackles of skepticism, and cause the hearts of his companions to quail with deathly fear. Near the close of his sermon, he was rendered powerless and speechless for a short time. Something seemed to strike him on top of the head and go through his whole body; and in that condition an awful conscience-smiting sensation of divine disapprobation and conviction settled upon him and filled his heart with terror. He thought death had come, and recovering himself somewhat placed his hand over his heart to feel whether it were beating. Realizing that he was mocking God, he feared that he would be sent directly to hell. In trepidation and despair akin to that of an utterly lost soul, he got down with difficulty from the stand, and with a spiritless voice said, "That's my last, boys."

While he stood before his companions so powerfully moved upon by the Holy Spirit, their hearts were pierced with pungent conviction. They were speechless, and not a smile played on their lips; their mirthfulness had vanished, and sober and serious thoughtfulness was depicted on their death-like countenances. In consternation they fled from him, as he got down from the stand.

When he joined his companions, not one of them had a word to say; and they maintained their silence until they reached the raft. A more sober and serious crew of river men possibly never journeyed along together before nor since; and it is altogether probable that they all sought and found favor with God. They never made any more demands of the "Elder" for sermons; for they knew too well that "God is not mocked." And while they may not have been familiar with the Scriptures, yet they knew by intuition that by a repetition of that act a more severe judgment might come upon them, in which God would "laugh at their calamity and mock when their fear cometh" (Prov. 1:26).


When you speak to God, do your lips and your heart go together? --John Wesley (1703-1791)

At one time I was sorely vexed and tried by my own sinfulness, by the wickedness of the world, and by the dangers which beset the Church. One morning I saw my wife dressed in mourning. Surprised, I asked her who had died. She replied: "Do you not know? God in Heaven is dead." I said to her: "How can you talk such nonsense, Katie? How can God die? He is immortal, and will live through all eternity." "Is that really true?" she asked. "Of course," I said, still not perceiving what she was aiming at;"how can you doubt it? As surely as there is a God in Heaven, so sure is it that He can never die." "And yet," she said, "though you do not doubt that, you are still so hopeless and discouraged." Then I observed what a wise woman my wife was, and mastered my sadness. --Martin Luther (1483-1546)

The editor, while agreeing with the content presented in this newsletter, does not necessarily endorse all of a writer's works, doctrines, etc. The editor is solely responsible for all mistakes.