JOSEPH BARKER, who was once an infidel and lecturer against the Bible and Christianity, gives the following in his work, Teachings of Experience. He says
“A gentleman whose conduct left a very favourable impression upon my mind was Colonel Shaw of Ayr, Scotland. He was a retired officer, but being a real Christian, and a good speaker, he employed a considerable portion of his time in preaching the Gospel. How it came to pass I do not exactly remember, but it was arranged that he and I should have a public discussion on the divine authority of the Bible. The discussion took place in the City Hall, Glasgow.
“The colonel was so very kind and gentlemanly that I found my task exceedingly difficult. It was very unpleasant to speak lightly of the faith of so good and true a man, or to say anything calculated to hurt the feelings of one so guileless and so affectionate; and many a time I wished myself employed about some other business,, or engaged to contest with some other man. At the end of the second night’s debate we were to rest two days, and the colonel was so kind as to invite me, and even to press me, to spend those days with him at his residence near Ayr. The colonel had given his good lady so favourable an account of my behaviour in the debate, that she wrote to me enforcing her good husband’s invitation.
“I went. I could do no other. The colonel and his venerable father met me at the station with a carriage, and I was soon in the midst of the colonel’s truly Christian and happy family. Neither the colonel nor any of his household attempted to draw me into any controversy. Not a word was spoken that was calculated to make me feel uneasy. There seemed no effort on the part of anyone, yet everything was said and done in a way to make me feel myself perfectly at home. Love, true Christian love, under the guidance of the highest culture, was the moving spirit in the colonel’s family circle. A visit to the birthplace of Burns, and to the banks of Bonnie Doon was proposed, and a most delightful stroll we had, made all the more pleasant by the colonel’s remarks on the various objects of interest that came in view, and his apt and ready quotations of passages from the works of the poet referring to the scenery amidst which we were moving.
“On our return home I was made to feel at ease again with regard to everything but myself. I felt sorry that I should be at variance with my kind and accomplished host, on a subject of so much interest and importance as religion and the Bible. The thought that on the evening of the coming day I should have to appear on the platform again as his opponent was really annoying. To talk with such a man privately, in a free and friendly way seemed proper enough, but to appear in public as his antagonist seemed too bad.
“When we started from Ayr to Glasgow in the same train, and in the same carriage, I felt as if I would much rather have travelled in some other direction, or on a different errand. But an agreement had been made, and it must be kept; so two more nights were spent in discussion—fair and friendly discussion—and not quarrelling. Neither he nor I gave utterance to an unkind or reproachful word. When the discussion was over, the colonel shook me by the hand in a most hearty manner in the presence of an excited audience, and presented me with a book as an expression of his respect and good feeling.
“I made the best return I could, unwilling to be outdone by my gallant and Christian friend. The audience, divided as they were on matters of religion, after gazing some time on the spectacle presented on the platform, as if at a loss what to do, or which of the disputants they should applaud, dropped their differences, and all united in applauding both, and the disputants and the audience separated with the heartiest demonstrations of satisfaction and mutual goodwill.
“The events of those days, and the impression I received of my opponent’s exalted character, never faded from my memory, and though they had not all the effect they ought to have had, their influence on my mind was truly salutary. I have never thought of Colonel Shaw and his good, kind Christian family without affection, gratitude, and delight. He wrote to me repeatedly after my return to America, and the letters which reached us when we were living among the wilds of Nebraska were among our pleasantest visitants, and must be reckoned among the means of my recovery from the horrors of unbelief.”