At a meeting once, where Col. Robert Ingersoll and Henry Ward Beecher were present, the noted agnostic, Col. Ingersoll, had spoken at some length and put forth brilliantly his agnostic views. It was expected by those present that Beecher would have replied to those attacks and defended Christianity, but the old man said not a word. At last Col. Ingersoll remarked, 'Mr. Beecher, have you nothing to say on this question?' The old man slowly lifted himself and replied:
`Nothing: in fact, if you will excuse me for changing the conversation, I will say that while you gentlemen were talking, my mind was bent on a most deplorable spectacle which I witnessed today.'
`What was it?' at once inquired Col. Ingersoll who, notwithstanding his peculiar views of the hereafter, was noted for his kindness of heart.
`Why,' said Mr. Beecher, `as I was walking down town today I saw a poor lame man with crutches, slowly and carefully picking his way through a cesspool of mud in the endeavor to cross the street. He had just reached the middle of the filth, when a big, burly ruffian, himself all bespattered, rushed up to him, jerked the crutches from under the unfortunate man, and left him sprawling and helpless in the mud.'
`What a brute he was,' said the Colonel. `What a brute!' they all echoed.
`Yes,' said the old man, rising from his chair and brushing back his long white hair, while his eyes glittered with their old-time fire as he bent them on Ingersoll. 'Yes, Colonel Ingersoll, and you are the man. The human soul is lame, but Christianity gives it crutches to enable it to pass along the highway of life. It is your teaching that knocks these crutches from under it and leaves it a helpless and rudderless wreck in the slough of despond.
`If robbing the human soul of its only support on earth be your profession, why, ply it to your heart's content. It requires an architect to erect a building: an incendiary may reduce it to ashes.'
The old man sat down, and silence brooded over the scene. Col. Ingersoll said nothing, and the company took their hats and departed.
Dr. H. A. Ironside was once walking up Market Street in San Francisco on a Sunday, and the Salvation Army was holding a meeting at the junction of Market Street and Grant Avenue. The captain, recognizing Dr. Ironside, asked him to give a message, and he gladly agreed. After the address a well-dressed gentleman stepped up to Dr. Ironside and handed him a card on which he had been writing. On one side was his name, Arthur Morrow Lewis, the well-known agnostic lecturer. On the other side he had written: `Sir, I challenge you to debate with me the question, "Agnosticism versus Christianity", in the Academy of Sciences Hall next Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. I will pay all expenses.'
Dr. Ironside read the card aloud and replied, 'Mr. Lewis, I already have an engagement for next Sunday at 3 o'clock, but, if necessary, I think I could cancel it. I am disposed to accept your challenge and will if it is really worthwhile. But in order to prove that you have something worth debating, I accept on these conditions: First, that you promise to bring with you to the platform next Sunday one man who was once an outcast, a slave to sinful habits, but who on some occasion heard you or some other infidel lecture on agnosticism, and was so helped by it that he cast away his sins, became a new man, and is today a respected member of society, all
because of unbelief. Second, that you will also agree to bring with you one woman who was once lost to all purity and goodness, an abandoned female sunk in the depths of depravity, but who can now testify that agnosticism came to her while deep down in sin and implanted a new hatred of impurity in her poor heart, putting a new power into her life and delivering her from her base desires, and making her now a clean, chaste woman, all through disbelieving in God and the Bible. Now, sir, if you will agree to these conditions, I will promise to be there with one hundred men and women who were once just such lost souls as I have described but who heard the precious gospel of the grace of God, who believed it and ever since have hated sin and loved righteousness and have found new life and joy in Christ Jesus, the Savior Whom you deny. Will you accept my terms?'
He shook his head and turned away while the crowd applauded. They knew that in all the annals of agnosticism no one ever heard of unbelief making bad people good, but the Bible has demonstrated its power in untold myriads of cases to turn men from sin to righteousness, from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. (Acts 26. 18) 20.
George Muller of Bristol went one day to preach in the Free Assembly Hall, Edinburgh, and the place was packed to overflowing. A well-known agnostic, inspired by curiosity, pressed his way into the hall. Just when the preacher began to deliver his address, a young mother attempted to leave the building because her baby began to cry rather loudly, but the crowd was so great that exit was impossible. Mr. Muller came at once to the troubled mother's help by saying: `Will that dear mother sit down, and we shall ask Jesus to put baby to sleep.'
The mother quietly took her seat, and the great assembly reverently bowed their heads while Mr. Muller prayed as follows: 'Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, be pleased to put this baby to sleep.' Immediately the child went to sleep, to the evident astonishment of the audience. The agnostic was startled beyond measure and said to himself, 'If that man has a God like that, it is time for me to seek Him': and under the power of the Holy Spirit he sought and found George Muller's God. He became a true Christian and an earnest advocate of the faith he so long tried to destroy, and God used him in winning many souls to Christ. When his work was finished, he fell asleep in Jesus in a hospital in Edinburgh. (1 Thess. 1. 9; 1 John 4. 8)